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ACLU Remembers Bruce Sattler – One of the Foremost Advocates for Civil Rights in Colorado

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Join us for a Celebration of Bruce’s Life on Saturday, February 6th, at 2 p.m. at the Parkhill United Church of Christ, 2600 Leyden St.

Bruce Weimer Sattler died Dec. 2 of complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer. He was predeceased by the love of his life and partner for 42 years, Martha Earle Sattler, who died earlier this year on June 7. Bruce is survived by his loving sister Marylee Caldwell (husband Jim), and his adored niece, Tracy. He also left behind his dog Harry S. – one in a long line of dogs named in honor of civil rights and civil liberties heroes and principles.

Sattler was born in South Gate, Calif. and grew up in Santa Monica, California in a blue-collar family. He attended Stanford University undergraduate and law school on scholarships. He joined Holland & Hart in Denver in 1969 and became a partner in 1975. He left Holland & Hart twice. The first time was to pursue his passion for civil rights by becoming a trial lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The second time he left to join a small employment law boutique firm, where he was to become a partner, at Faegre & Benson in Denver.

Sattler is remembered as one of the foremost advocates for civil rights in Colorado. He was a passionate civil libertarian. He was a brilliant employment lawyer. He possessed a fundamental sense of fairness.

“I literally met Bruce on my first day of work at Holland & Hart as a summer clerk in May of 1972,” said longtime colleague Greg Eurich. “I introduced myself to Mr. Sattler and he taught me my first lesson in Holland & Hart protocol when he said, ’Greg, this is the West. Call me Bruce.’ As kindred spirits, it didn’t take long for the two of us to become close friends, a friendship that lasted over 40 years.”

Sattler was a leader in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado for 45 years. He held many positions at the ACLU, including serving on the National ACLU Board of Directors, the Colorado Board of Directors, its legal panel and personnel committee. In 2009 he served as interim executive director, a job he performed for many months without compensation. He was a tireless supporter of pro bono work on behalf of the ACLU.

“The staff, board, and entire ACLU of Colorado community mourns the loss of Bruce Sattler,” said Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley. “His 45 years of leadership, dedication, and service to our organization made an impact that is beyond description. With his brilliant legal mind and sharp wit, Bruce provided wisdom, stability, and often levity through times of strength and times of uncertainty, and he continued to serve on the ACLU of Colorado board to his last day.”

“Bruce was my civil liberties mentor,” said Dan Recht, a fellow ACLU board member and current chair of the legal panel. “He was the quintessential civil libertarian. He was a brilliant employment lawyer with a passion for civil liberties issues. He had an amazing breadth of knowledge regarding civil liberties issues. He was always the voice of reason in board discussions. And, well, he was just a damn good guy.”

In 2000, Sattler was honored by the ACLU at the Carle Whitehead Bill of Rights dinner. He received the Edward Sherman Award, which recognizes outstanding legal work on behalf of furthering civil liberties in Colorado.

He also volunteered for many other organizations. In 1978, Sattler helped found the Colorado Lawyer’s Committee. Sattler served on the board of directors of Colorado Legal Services, which provides low-income and vulnerable persons access to legal assistance, for more than 35 years.

He also served on the board of Denver-based Free Speech TV, was a long-time supporter of the Family Star Montessori Center and worked with many other nonprofits. He and Martha made their home in the diverse neighborhood of Park Hill.

Former colleague Natalie Hanlon Lee described Sattler as her “work father,” and important force in her life. “I learned so much from him about being a lawyer and a person,” said Hanlon Lee. “He taught me how to be a great litigator, which he was. But, more importantly, he demonstrated throughout his life and our work together, how to always act with the utmost professionalism and ethics, and the importance of giving to the community and standing up for justice for all. Whenever I had a tough ethical issue, I’d always think ‘WWBD?’ – ‘What Would Bruce Do?’ and then I knew I would have the right answer.”

Bruce, along with Martha, loved to travel. He started when he attended the Stanford campus in Tours, France.  He and Martha returned there often; the couple also traveled to China, Russia and Africa.

Steve Zansberg, a former law partner, and friend of the Sattlers for 20 years, wrote, “apart from both of their unique talents, intelligence, wit, passion, warmth, and spirit, they were both such incredibly wonderful souls. As with Martha’s loss earlier this year, it is a sadly diminished world we all live in now, because Bruce is no longer a part of it.”

“Let us all recommit ourselves,” Zansberg noted, “to fight the good fight, as Bruce and Martha so passionately and unwaveringly did, and would expect and extol us to do, in their honor.”

Memorial contributions may be made to: the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, 303 E. 17th Ave., Ste 350, Denver, CO 80203; and Leland Stanford Junior University, PO Box 20028, Stanford, CA 94309



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