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Brian Steward, Attorney and Planned Parenthood Board Member Discusses Covid-19 Legal Issues
Episode 710th April 2020 • The Alamo Hour • Justin Hill
00:00:00 01:02:35

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Brian Steward joins and walks us through the fight between the State of Texas and Planned Parenthood regarding the state's attempt to ban all abortions and non-essential medical procedures during the COVID-19 shutdown. He also discusses growing up in San Antonio and his involvement with the zoo. Great discussion on some very specific COVID-19 related legal issues.


Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo hour discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonio and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.

Hello, and welcome. Today's guest is Brian Steward. Brian is a board member of the San Antonio zoo formal board member of the San Antonio public library foundation or system. A board member of Planned Parenthood of Texas. He's a dad, he's a husband. He's a local injury lawyer and I won't hold it against him, but at one point he was a defense lawyer. For those who don't know, that means he's the guy that tries to keep people from getting justice in the courthouse, not criminal defense those guys are still good.

We've asked Brian on here today to talk about a few things, but one thing he's going to talk about is the fight with the state, between the state and Planned Parenthood. This is not a political show and it's not going to be, but it is something that's happening in the state of Texas right now where Planned Parenthood in the state of Texas are in a fight regarding medical procedures that can be performed during the coronavirus COVID-19 shutdowns.

We're going to talk to him a little bit about that. We're going to talk to him a little bit about the zoo and what's going on there. One thing he wishes I would talk to him about is Duke, he's a blue devil, but I refuse to talk about Duke, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I could not even tell you what state they were in if I was forced to on jeopardy because I choose to not know that kind of information because Duke has no bearing on me.

Another fun fact, Brian Steward has a vanity license plate. Everybody should know about it. I think it's San Antonio, blue devil or something like that. I mean, I'm not going to give it any credit. We'll get to you, Brian. He's itching to talk. Brian, we're going to start like we started with everybody. A few questions to start top 10 questions to give some color to who you are. Do you have any pets?

Brian Steward: I have two dogs currently.

Justin: Are those your mother's dogs?

Brian: No, my mother has two puppies. She's got two chocolate labs, but we have two dogs. My wife's child and I have two dogs.

Justin: Do you also have two puppies at your house right now?

Brian: I do.

Justin: You've got two dogs and you are-- I don't know waystation for two black labs right now.

Brian: Chocolate labs, I feel like I'm a foster with benefits. I think that's how I would characterize it.

Justin: Your daughter Grace clearly thinks there's benefits involved. I saw the pictures.

Brian: My daughter, Grace, knows that those are her dogs. That's why she was able to name them. Colby, that's right. Not Colby, Colby Bryant, Steward, and Hunter Bush Steward. Good looking dog.

Justin: Is your mom going to stick to those names?

Brian: I think the dogs may have alternative names and that's okay. Like [unintelligible 00:03:06].

Justin: Well, I hope your daughter still calls them these random names years down the road as she sees them.

Brian: She will. She really doesn't care what other people think.

Justin: All right. What is your-- I hate when people ask me I've got friends that'll call and say you eat out a lot, which I don't know if it's a compliment or not, but they'll say, what's your favorite restaurant in town? That's a terrible question, but what is your favorite restaurant right now? If you were going to go eat this week, what's the spot that you're into right now?

Brian: Sure. I mean, part of that is obviously we're in different times, we're all trying to do our best to help and aid these restaurants that they're facing some dramatic and horrible times. I love going to Beto's just because I love the people, I also like going to-- I'm going to stop there.

Justin: The empanadas, isn't that what sort of thing.

Brian: It's a whole package.

Justin: I'm pretty sure I've never eaten there.

Brian: That is on you.

Justin: I mean, I've been there late at night and then like the adult kickball teams get off and they're partying their but which is an actual thing, but I've never eaten food there.

Brian: Again, I don't want to delve too deeply into your personal life, but I'm not around many adult kickball players. I'm simply out looking for a good meal.

Justin: If you go to Beto's, you are.

Brian: [unintelligible 00:04:29] we're probably gone by the time your derelicts roll in.

Justin: Do you also eat at Taco Garage a lot because it's in that corridor.

Brian: No.

Justin: You remember [unintelligible 00:04:38] you was still open?

Brian: Absolutely.

Justin: Beto's I mean, I really would. You could have given me 50 choices and I would have never thought Beto's would be your go-to spot but [unintelligible 00:04:49]. Next question, what is your hidden gem in San Antonio? I tell people, hey, San Antonio, you're coming to visit. These are great spots, but if you want a PhD in San Antonio tourism, there's a few things and probably PhD is a little over the top to say like the Japanese tea gardens, but there's a few of these great little hidden gems that I didn't know for probably at least a year or two living here that when I went to, I thought, how on earth did I not know. What's your favorite hidden gem?

Brian: My favorite hidden gem is connected to my childhood and it's the old white family home which has become a part of st Antonio city-system of parks and it's at the bottom near Salado Creek and it started out as a home where Jack White and his father, who is the mayor of San Antonio in the 50s, they had carved out about 40 to 50 acres right off Salado Creek, right North of I35.

It's a beautiful location. When we were kids, third, fourth, fifth grade the whites live there, Jack, Karen, and their children, Jack and Scott lived there. It was like being in the country, in the middle of San Antonio and at someplace I still try to go as often as possible because it reminds me of those times and it's still a beautiful, beautiful location.

Justin: What is it now?

Brian: It has become a part of the Salado Creek, Tobin run area.

Justin: It goes all the way up to what is that little--?

Brian: It goes up to McAllister Park.

Justin: And Los Barrios.

Brian: It goes behind Los barrios. I'm not sure if the actual home is open. I haven't been in the home, but the original home that I remember from the late 70s is there and it looks the same way and it reminds me of some really good times.

Justin: You should tell Jack White of the white stripes about this. He's into that kind of kitschy stuff he might.

Brian: Jack White did not know who is my old friend is older than that Jack White and he probably doesn't play guitar as well, but you're right.

Justin: My favorite Jack White story is they had a neighborhood barbecue and the neighbors said there was some random guy that lived behind a gated fence that they had never seen and at the barbecue, this dude walking around he's pale with long hair and then they all realize, "Oh, that's the new guy. Oh my God, that's Jack White." It just showed up to a neighborhood barbecue with nobody else. I was like, that story.

Brian: I like it.

Justin: Outside involvement, we've covered Planned Parenthood, we've covered the zoo. We've covered the library. Any other things in San Antonio that you're involved with [unintelligible 00:07:37]?

Brian: In San Antonio?

Justin: Or the state.

Brian: Sure. Or the nation. Here's what I do. Probably for the last six years, I've been the chair of the Duke alumni interviewers, which means that at least in San Antonio and sometimes South, sometimes all the way to the Laredo, we try to coordinate interviews and help students get into that prestigious university in North Carolina. Really sorry, you didn't understand the Duke was in North Carolina.

Justin: Did you say prestigious. Did you learn that [crosstalk]

Brian: No. I learned it before that because we're going to talk about that too. Obviously, I'm involved in Duke admissions and on April the first, Duke admitted, I think it was seven students, seven local students and I hope they all matriculate there so that I can see them this summer at my party, which is the Duke going away party.

Before that, I'm also involved in the executive committee of the alumni council of Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. I was fortunate enough to attend that prestigious prep school. I'm still very involved in that. I have been on the boar of San Antonio Academy where I attended and I was the alumni council president of San Antonio Academy. I'm committed to education all of its forms, although it appears it all these private schools but--

Justin: It's a name dropping, it sounds like. Is that education?

Brian: More importantly, my parents were educators. My dad was a principal at the Negro school in Stanton and my mother was the sixth-grade teacher at that school. It's a great story. If you actually want to Google it, you can Google Christine Smith Steward who gave a deposition on July the 17th 1965 because the school was shut down because they didn't have the assets to continue these separate but equal schools systems and standard, and they didn't offer my parents a job.

As part of that litigation, my mother had to give a deposition on July the 17th. She then jumped in her car and drove to San Antonio, which is where my parents had decided to leave and the next day at 5:55 or 5:56, depending upon who you ask, I was born.

Justin: I didn't know that about you.

Brian: It's a good story. You need to ask Christine. She's got ton of--

Justin: I would love to. Would she come on the podcast?

Brian: No.

Justin: Okay, I also still want to point out, my parents were both educators as well, but you don't hear me dropping the names of the fancy schools I went to like Texas A&M or Baylor or Burkburnett High School.

Brian: I think you just did.

Justin: Okay, wow. Any odd hobbies that you have? I know you run half marathons, which means you're half crazy, but what else?

Brian: I think that the best sport that I play to the extent I'm allowed to play it by my wife and child is Ultimate Frisbee. I still love Ultimate. It's a thing that I will wake up even at my advanced stage and wonder how good I could have been if someone had simply turned beyond Ultimate earlier. Last spring I went to see one of my best friends in college. Her son plays for the UNC ultimate team, which is probably ranked number one in the nation. We spent two days watching them play. I honestly thought that I could play again. I was wrong.

Justin: Are they only ranked number one because there's literally no other school in America that plays Ultimate Frisbee?

Brian: You are so sheltered from the things that matter most to many of us.

Justin: Other than sports, do you have any hobbies other than sports? Clearly, you're athletic, you play Ultimate Frisbee and run half marathons. What about things that other people can relate to?

Brian: I have a five-year-old. Her sports are my sports. We had piano class the other day. We had hip-hop class the other day. I do things and move in certain ways that I'm not designed to move in at this point, but I do it because I love her.

Justin: Next question, do you own Alf on DVD?

Brian: I own every episode and every season of Alf and I'm working through Alf with my daughter who doesn't understand why her dad is laughing.

Justin: Is this because you hate cats?

Brian: It has nothing to do with Lucky the Cat or Melmac and how they treated cats. I think cats are a symbol, but if I delve too deeply into this, I don't think you'll understand.

Justin: So did Egyptians.

Brian: Well, that's good because Melmac is a country that-- I'm sorry, a planet. It probably proceeded this planet if you're keeping track at home.

Justin: I'm not. Worst trend you followed when you were younger.

Brian: Worst trend I follow when I was younger, I think when I was in the sixth grade, during the summer I had my hair braided. I know that there are photographs of this somewhere, but I haven't seen any, but I remember even at the time thinking this is bad. I also had a perm once. I think that was closer to seventh grade, but again, there aren't any photos.

Justin: What kind of braids?

Brian: Not Iverson [unintelligible 00:13:02] more Kawhi, like a second-year straight and not even. They were kind of a mess, but I loved them.

Justin: That's a good way to put it because Kawhi never looked as put together as Iverson did.

Brian: He didn't.

Justin: Yes, he didn't. I can say now-- He was better though. I think you can say it and I was going to say, and I can't even say it was better, but I think you can say that. I'm going to say that, he was a better player.

Brian: He was a better player.

Justin: Kawhi is a better player than Iverson was.

Brian: Well, that is your recency bias. If you could remember back to 2001 when this 5/9 personal is playing 41 minutes a night and averaging 26 to 27 points, he was awesome.

Justin: I like how you're looking at paper as though you brought your statistics to Iversion.

Brian: No, that lives within me. That's what all people do.

Justin: He was awesome, but Kawhi might be a transcendent player. He shut down the brain.

Brian: What does he transcend?

Justin: In a day and age in which there's really nobody that changes the game, Kawhi might be one of those players that does. He has gotten better year to year in a way that almost nobody gets better in the NBA because they already start at such a high level. LeBron started at such a high level and got incrementally better. Kawhi continues to get better if they'll play him, if he'll quit sitting out. I think is the best way to put this.

Brian: Well, the thing is, as a competitor, you would expect him to play and want to play like Allen Iverson. Kawhi is never going to average 41 minutes for a season.

Justin: Okay, we're getting off track.

Brian: For a season.

Justin: When did you move-- How long have you lived in San Antonio?

Brian: I was born and raised in San Antonio. I was born at the Nix Hospital. I know my doctor.

Justin: Which is now going to be an apartment or something.

Brian: Right, at best. It should be torn down.

Justin: Really, it's still a nice building.

Brian: Not a thing.

Justin: Okay, a favor Fiesta event.

Brian: It's got to be King William. King William is the event where my wife and child can enjoy themselves. We can go from house to house and laugh at people and feel a part of that community. It's a fun community down there. I don't live down there, but if I had the opportunity I would.

Justin: Do you know the Hill Law Firm was the first aid tent sponsor last year and this upcoming year?

Brian: Since I didn't spend any time in the first aid team, I didn't know that.

Justin: If you did at least, you know it's got a good sponsor.

Brian: That's good. I hope you got some mass down there.

Justin: Last question, what is the single biggest change you've seen in San Antonio in the last 50 years? Assuming you're 50, I don't know with you.

Brian: I'm 54, but thanks for that. I think the single biggest change was the change from the government where the good Government League ran this town to the current structure.

Justin: How would you describe the good Government League?

Brian: The good Government League looks like it sounds. It was government of this town by a really small section and portion of this town and it was restricted. I think now with the ascendance of various groups, the government is much more representative of the people as opposed to certain zip codes.

Justin: I had a recent experience with a man who was probably about 60 and he explained to me how we don't understand how much good was done by and he named like six families. He never said good governments, but I assume that too is what you're talking about.

Brian: I can probably tick those families off, but without ticking those families off I won't, but yes, that's how it was. If you look around and you look at highways and malls and things, you can sort of figure out who they were, but it was a different time. There were some obvious patronism and some forward-thinking in some of those groups, but there was a point where the rest of us needed to weigh in.

Justin: I think this is probably a story told throughout America, really.

Brian: Sure.

Justin: Yes, I was going to spend more time talking to you about a few things, but I want to get to the meat of what we were going to talk about today. Clearly, you accomplished. Did you all hear, he went to Deerfield. Clearly, you've got a background, but one thing you do do as a volunteer basis is you're on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood. Such a political hot potato, such a weird lightning bolt for everybody politically. Nobody's in between on that it seems like anymore, even though you get a strange crossover of wealthy conservatives' wives and/or women who do cross that spectrum.

It's just this strange thing. When I was in college, we would help girls get from their cars to the front door because there were people screaming and yelling and I was fresh off the turnip truck. I just thought that's mean. I really didn't have any grand political feeling about it other than a buddy of mine did it and I thought, "This is crazy. What are you yelling at these poor girls for?"

What's going on in Texas right now cutting everything short is Governor Abbott said, "Hey, we are going to cut non-essential medical services." Attorney general Paxton says, "Okay, everybody, that also specifically means and I am declaring that abortion is a nonessential service." Planned Parenthood of Texas sued the state of Texas and it landed on the desk of Lee Yeakel who was a George W. Bush appointee, a federal judge in Austin, Texas. Talk to me about generally what are the arguments from both sides on that?

Brian: Sure, the timeline you provided is amazing because this all started back on March the 22nd 2020. I'm going to go back and go through it a little bit because I think it's important for everyone who's listening to this to try to frame this because it's happening even as we speak. March 22nd, 2020, Governor Abbott issues, executive order GA-09. Jokingly, we say get abortion, but that's not actually what it meant, but the executive order related to hospital capacity during this disaster, the COVID-19 disaster.

It was in effect from March 22nd, 2020 to April 21st, 2020. Remember that, because we've got a month window where this is in place. Essentially what it says is, "Hey, obviously there is a crisis, and during this crisis, we don't want to take resources away from our hospitals and our healthcare providers." Generally, I think we will all agree with that. March 23rd, things changed. March...