George Neves Leighton


Justice Harrison, Academy Laureates to be honored

Access to Justice Luncheon scheduled Feb. 1 in Chicago

Excerpts from the ISBA Bar News

Volume 41, No. 10           December 15, 2000

By Stephen Anderson

Chief Justice Moses W. Harrison II of the Illinois Supreme Court will be honored in February by the Illinois State Bar Association during a luncheon at which 12 Laureates of the Academy of Illinois Lawyers will be inducted.

Cook County Laureates are James J. Ahern of Skokie, Eugene Crane, Harold A. Katz, George N. Leighton, Francis X. Riley, Jerold S. Solovy and Willis R. Tribler of Chicago. The late Thomas J. Foran of Chicago will be inducted posthumously.



Former federal and Cook County circuit judge George Leighton, born 88 years ago to immigrants from the Cape Verde Islands, was nominated by Academy Laureate Martha A. Mills as a champion of civil and constitutional rights and opponent of capital punishment. He is of counsel to Earl L. Neal & Associates.


A past president of the Chicago branch of the NAACP and chair of its Legal Redress Committee, Leighton has received awards from the American Civil Liberties Union, the John Howard Association and Cook County Bar Association, and has two honorary doctorates. He is a past chair of the ISBA Bill of Rights Committee.



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George N. Leighton Quotes:

United States District Judge George Leighton has stated:  “[T]he loss of life means more than being deprived of the right to exist, or of the ability to earn a living; it includes deprivation of the pleasures of life.”    Sherrod v. Berry, 629 F. Supp. 159 (N.D. Ill. 1985). aff’d, 827 F.2d 195 (7th Cir. 1987), vacated and remanded, 835 F.2d 1222 (7th Cir. 1988).






From: Fall Volume 1966:3, Illinois Criminal Procedure II

Publication: Post-Conviction Remedies in Illinois Criminal Procedure—George N. Leighton






Presentations and Awards:



From the Chicago Bar Association’s CBA Report

Monday, September 11, 2000




Distinguished Recipients to be Honored at September 13 Gala Dinner

At the urging of Justice Stevens' former law clerks, The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) and Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) have established an Award in honor of Justice John Paul Stevens. The Justice John Paul Stevens Award will be given annually to a Chicago-area attorney whose career has exemplified the highest standards of the legal profession. For the inaugural awards, the selection committee, co-chaired by CBA President William J. Linklater and CBF President Leonard J. Schrager, has selected eight outstanding Chicago attorneys to be the first recipients of this distinguished award.


The eight honorees are:

Jean Allard
Hon. William J. Bauer
Philip H. Corboy
Milton H. Gray

Hon. George Leighton
Dawn Clark Netsch
Jerold S. Solovy
Thomas P. Sullivan




The following was taken from WIKIPEDIA at: All Rights Reserved.



George Neves Leighton (born George Neves Leitão on October 22, 1912, in New Bedford, Massachusetts) is a retired African-American judge.


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Personal life

Leighton was born George Neves Leitão, son of Ana Silva Garcia and António Neves Leitão, both originally from Brava, Cape Verde.[1] His surname was anglicised

 as "Leighton" by a teacher who claimed she could not pronounce his last name "Leitão". His parents, wanting no problems for their son, agreed.

Leighton was married to the late Virginia Berry Quivers and has two daughters, Virginia Anne and Barbara Elaine. He is the grandfather of five and the great grandfather of six. He was a strong tournament chess player.


Leighton graduated from Howard University with an A.B. in 1940 and from Harvard Law School with an LL.B. in 1946. From 1942-1945 he had served in the United States army, rising to the rank of Captain. He was in private practice from 1946-1964. During this time he served as Assistant State Attorney General of Illinois from 1949-1951. He was a Master in chancery, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois from 1960 to 1964.

Leighton was a judge with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois from 1964–1969, and was a judge with the First District Appellate Court of Illinois from 1969-1976. Judge Leighton was the first African-American to hold this position in the State of Illinois.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford nominated Leighton to a seat on the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. This was a seat being vacated by Abraham L. Marovitz. He was confirmed on February 2, 1976, and received commission on February 4, 1976. He retired from this position on November 30, 1987, and returned to the practice of law with the firm of Earl L. Neal & Associates.

Leighton became a Life Member in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1964, having served the Chicago branch as president and general counsel for several years.


The average Hispanic, the average African-American, thinks when he walks into a courtroom where everyone is white besides him, he is convinced the judgment has already been entered against him. They aren't imagining things. There are many communities in America where the cards are stacked against minorities before the case is called. They are relieved when they walk in and see a member of their race sitting on the bench.


From the American Inns of Court website at 


All Rights Reserved.


The Honorable George N. Leighton

George N. Leighton was born on October 22, 1912 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of immigrants from the African Cape Verde Islands. He attended grade schools on Cape Cod and in New Bedford. He finished the sixth grade; but never entered high school because he had to work to help support his family. He spent his Depression-era adolescence working in the cranberry bogs and even on an oil tanker sailing from Fall River, Massachusetts to Aruba, off the northern coast of South America. This ended his public school education, but not his quest for knowledge. He was a voracious reader and borrowed books from many various sources and attended night school.

In 1936, Leighton submitted an essay in a writing contest in New Bedford and won a $200 college scholarship. Determined to use the scholarship, he submitted an application for admission to Howard University. He received a letter from the registrar of Howard, informing him that he could attend the school conditionally as an unclassified student. If he proved he could do college work without a high school diploma, Howard would make him a candidate for a degree. In September of or that same year, assisted by the $200 essay scholarship award, and on the authority of the letter written by the registrar, Leighton enthusiastically began his freshman studies at Howard University.

At the end of the first semester examinations, Leighton had made the Dean's Honor Roll. On making the honor roll, Leighton reminded the registrar of the postscript to his 1936 letter, and because of his achievement, was made a candidate for a degree in the College of Liberal Arts. He remained on the Dean’s Honor Roll through his four years of college studies, and in 1940, George Leighton graduated from Howard University - magna cum laude.

Before his graduation, Leighton wrote to the dean of the Harvard Law School. Because of his scholastic record at Howard University, the dean awarded Leighton a first year scholarship to Harvard Law School. He enrolled in September 1940, but midway through his second year, his law studies were interrupted by World War II. Leighton served as an Infantry officer with the 93rd Infantry Division throughout its service in the Pacific Theatre until October 1945, when, as a Captain, he was relieved from active duty. He returned to Harvard and a year later, graduated from Harvard Law School, having already taken and passed the Massachusetts bar exam.

Moving to Chicago in October of 1946, he became active in civic affairs, and soon became a member and the Chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of the Chicago Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He served the Chicago NAACP as president and general counsel, handling many cases, some of them landmark, and in 1964, he proudly became a Life Member in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 1951, Leighton organized the law firm of Moore, Ming & Leighton, predecessor to the law firms of McCoy, Ming & Leighton and McCoy, Ming and Black, which, by the early sixties, was considered to be one of the largest predominantly black law firms in the United States. During his professional career, Leighton represented plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases of every kind. Leighton withdrew from the firm in 1964 when he was elected judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Judge Leighton was installed as a circuit court judge on December 7, 1964. On July 18, 1969, the Supreme Court of Illinois selected him to sit on the Appellate Court for the First District, and in 1970 Judge Leighton was elected to a 10-year term as a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court.

In December 1975, President Gerald Ford nominated Judge Leighton to serve as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. He was confirmed by the United States Senate and began serving on March 1, 1976. He retired from the bench in 1987, and now, at the age of 90, serves the Chicago firm of Neal, Murdock & Leroy as Of Counsel to and teaches law as an adjunct professor at John Marshall Law School.

As an attorney, George Leighton defended more than 200 criminal cases in bench and jury trials. During this same period, he handled more than 175 appeals or reviews, both civil and criminal, in state and federal courts. An ardent and spirited community supporter and civic activist, he has won respect and admiration from all quarters of society. His reputation as a fair, thoughtful and compassionate champion of human rights and the rule of law have earned him a respected place of service in a vast number of legal and civic organizations, committees, panels and boards. In recognition and appreciation of his untiring work, wisdom and leadership, Judge Leighton has received honors, awards, and honorary degrees from around the country. Perhaps none is more poignant than the recent decision of the New Bedford city fathers renaming and rededicating of a hometown junior high school as the George N. Leighton School, in tribute to one of the city’s most distinguished sons, one who never attended such a school.

Capping a legal career that spans half a century, Judge Leighton recently summarized the burdens and blessings of a lifetime in the profession of law by saying, “Our profession lives and exists in a plethora of rules, limitations and statutes. One can be disciplined, disbarred or disgraced for failing to operate within those limitations. It requires a disciplined and meticulous nature, a complete awareness of the restrictions. But the blessings far outnumber the burdens. In private practice, you may carve a niche in the community you serve. After many years, you may be asked to serve in the judiciary. The judiciary is the epitome of service. In this, the community says they trust you to be an administrator of justice – it’s the highest level of community service that our society offers.”



Additional Information about Judge Leighton can be found at:





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