Justin Armstrong Stanley


Honorary Degree (1981)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan


The Indiana roots of Justin Armstrong Stanley, lawyer and educator, run deep. He was born in Leesburg, Indiana on January 2, 1911 and both his parents and his grandparents were natives of this small north-central Indiana town. His maternal grandfather fought in an Indiana regiment in the Civil War and authored a book on Plain Township, in which Leesburg is located; his paternal grandfather owned several farms in the area. Although Mr. Stanley has lived most of his adult life in Illinois, he has remained loyal to Indiana and closely associated with his native state. He is a member of the Indiana Society of Chicago and served as a director of P. R. Mallory and Company, one of Indiana's major corporations.

Justin Stanley was educated in Leesburg until, with the encouragement of his aunt, Rose Stanley Cozzens, he attended Pawling School. He then went to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1933. He next attended Columbia University Law School and received an LL.B. in the same year, 1937, as his admission to the Illinois Bar. Mr. Stanley has practiced law in Chicago since that time with two significant leaves of absence. During World War II he was commissioned as a communications officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in America, Europe, and the Pacific. Later, Justin Stanley took one other leave from the practice of law. Active in its alumni affairs since his graduation from Dartmouth, he became that college's Vice-President from 1952 to 1954.

Mr. Stanley has enjoyed a distinguished career in his profession. From 1937-66 he practiced with the law firm of Isham, Lincoln, and Beale, initially as an associate, and as a partner since 1948. In January of 1966 he joined one of Chicago's oldest and most prestigious firms, Mayer, Brown, and Piatt, in which he continues to practice as a senior partner specializing in appellate work. Apart from his private practice, Mr. Stanley has been extremely active in other aspects of the legal profession. From 1938 to 1946 he was a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and he continues to participate in assessing and improving the nature of legal education in this country. Commitment and the willingness to espouse and articulate opinions mark Justin Stanley's accomplishments. When he served as President of the Chicago Bar Association he was instrumental in reconstructing legal disciplinary procedures in Illinois. He now serves as Chairman of the special committee appointed by the Supreme Court of Illinois to advise the court regarding a code of professional responsibilities. As President of the American Bar Association in 1976-77, Justin Stanley did his job so well that in 1977 U.S. News and World Report listed him as the third most influential lawyer in the United States, ranking him just behind Chief Justice Warren Burger and then Attorney General Griffin Bell. Moreover, he earned the accolade of a complimentary editorial from the Chicago Tribune, which argued that the "causes he has championed are of wide public interest as well as of concern to lawyers."

The causes to which Mr. Stanley has devoted his energies include urging the improvement of the appellate system, which he feels is unnecessarily overburdened by its inability to deny hearing appeals from lower courts. He has also championed the establishment of economical procedures to settle disputes in which the amount involved is less than the probable cost of hiring lawyers. He favors a system of informal tribunals in which, without the cost of a jury or lawyers, plaintiff and defendant speak for themselves and a decision is rendered by a judge. Finally, Justin Stanley has pursued a concern for the conditions in prisons to such an extent that his research on the subject included voluntarily spending a night in prison. He argues that the stated punishment is imprisonment, not enduring abuse or assault while in prison. The espousal of such views are a mark of Mr. Stanley's unquestioned integrity and recognition of social responsibilities and duties.

His sense of commitment to society has extended beyond the law to include serving as President of Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society, and as Trustee of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. His accomplishments have been honored in many ways, including honorary degrees from John Marshall Law School, Suffolk University, Vermont Law School, and Norwich University. He is the recipient of the Learned Hand Humanitarian Award from the American Jewish Committee.

Helen Leigh Fletcher and Justin Armstrong Stanley were married in January of 1938 and have four children, two daughters and two sons.