David I. Shapiro, founding partner of Washington-based Dickstein Shapiro, passed away yesterday morning of a heart attack in London, where he had been living since stepping down from the firm in 1997. He was 81.
Shapiro had planned to return to D.C. next February to work independently in the Dickstein Shapiro office. He had already bought an apartment here, said Dickstein Shapiro partner Frederick Lowther.
“I was telling everyone how excited we all should be to have David back,” Lowther said. “Everybody was looking forward to him coming back.”
Lowther had known Shapiro since 1973, when Lowther became one of only 10 lawyers at the firm, then called Morin, Dickstein, Shapiro and Galligan. Dickstein Shapiro now has more than 400 attorneys.
Lowther described Shapiro as “brilliant” and “larger than life” with “a huge heart.”
Shapiro began practicing law in 1949 and, with Sidney Dickstein, co-founded the firm in New York City in 1953, according to his bio on the Dickstein Shapiro Web site. In 1956, the two attorneys opened a Washington office, which later became its principal location.
In 1960, Shapiro successfully defended the First Amendment rights of George Lincoln Rockwell, so-called commander of the American Nazi Party.
Shapiro appeared before U.S. Supreme Court several times, successfully arguing loyalty cases pertaining to federal employees and members of the military services, among other matters. In 1963, argued Silver v. New York Stock Exchange, which upheld the right of a securities dealer to challenge, under the Sherman Act, his exclusion on loyalty grounds from essential wire connections with other exchange members.
“David didn’t do anything that wasn’t significant,” Lowther said. “David always had a cause and he always managed to find a way to assert that cause.”
Shapiro had been working in London as a mediator and was most recently a consultant with the SJ Berwin law office. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Carolyn; five children; and many grandchildren.