Press Releases

97-year-old Attorney George Leighton to Receive State Bar's First "Diversity Leadership Award"

Chris Ruys Communications, Inc.
Chris Ruys
(312) 337-7746 or
For Immediate Release: 
November 30, 2009
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Chicago attorney and retired federal judge George N. Leighton, 97, of counsel at Neal & Leroy, LLC, will receive the first “Diversity Leadership Award” from the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) on Thursday afternoon, December 10, at the organization’s Midyear Meeting at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E. North Water St.
In addition to receiving the award, Judge Leighton will participate as a panelist in a discussion hosted by WTTW “Chicago Tonight” host Phil Ponce, titled “Lincoln’s Legacy: Lawyers Who Protect Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 
The program begins at 1:00 p.m. and will include a keynote address by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, followed by the award to Leighton and the panel discussion. At 3:00 p.m., a “Call to Service Marketplace” will feature organizations that provide lawyers with public service opportunities.
Leighton is receiving the diversity award for his long history as a staunch supporter of civil rights and equal opportunity, and for his opposition to capital punishment. 
As NAACP general counsel in 1951 in the Cicero Riot Case, he won a civil suit for damages on behalf of his client, only to find himself indicted, erroneously, with conspiring to cause a riot. Many members of the Illinois bar and the media came to his defense, as did Thurgood Marshall, who successfully argued a motion to dismiss the case.
“On numerous occasions, Judge Leighton put his own life at risk to handle controversial cases,” said John G. O’Brien, ISBA president. “He has been a consistent champion of constitutional rights whenever they were threatened. For a lifetime of support aimed at providing equality for all, George Leighton is an extremely deserving recipient of the ISBA’s first Diversity Leadership Award.” 
The 35,000-member ISBA, with offices in Springfield and Chicago, provides professional services to Illinois lawyers, and education and services to the public.
More about George N. Leighton. Retired Judge Leighton concentrates in the areas of federal litigation and appellate cases. He became counsel to Neal & Leroy, LLC in 1987 after retiring from 23 combined years of service as judge on the state and federal bench. Judge Leighton is a 1946 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1940 magna cum laude graduate of Howard University. Judge Leighton's early career included serving as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois and as Master in Chancery of the Circuit Court of Cook County. In 1964, he was elected to a six-year term as Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and five years later he was assigned by the Illinois Supreme Court to sit as Judge of the Appellate Court, First District.
In 1970, Judge Leighton was elected to a ten-year term as a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. President Gerald Ford nominated Judge Leighton to serve as a Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 1975, upon confirmation Judge Leighton began serving in 1976. Judge Leighton retired from the bench in 1987.

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