CHARLESTON — The American Association for Justice has honored the founder of the West Virginia Association of Justice and inducted him to the AAJ Hall of Fame.
The late Stanley E. Preiser was honored by AAJ at its annual convention last month and inducted in the association’s national Hall of Fame. The AAJ Hall of Fame honors inductees posthumous. Preiser passed away in December 2009.
Preiser was instrumental in founding the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, which is now the West Virginia Association for Justice (WVAJ), in 1959. The WVAJ has more than 500 plaintiff attorneys as members and works to improve and preserve the civil justice system by upholding the U.S. and West Virginia constitutions. Preiser served as president in 1962 to 1963 and 1971.
“Stanley Preiser was a giant among trial lawyers nationally,” T.C. McCarthy, past president of WVAJ and a board member for AAJ, said. “It is without question that his leadership, work ethic, commitment to excellence and stalwart faith in our civil justice system and the rule of law were — and continue to be — an exemplary model for trial lawyers nationwide.”
McCarthy nominated Preiser in 2015, which was supported by Charleston attorney Guy Bucci. Bucci wrote in a letter supporting Presier’s nomination, “I will remember him best and most prominently for sharing his world class knowledge and skill with succeeding generations of lawyers and elevating their fame far beyond their individual capacity to reach higher levels. West Virginia produced the immortals Jerry West in basketball, Sam Huff in football, Mary Lou Retton in Olympic gymnastics, and, in our profession, Stanley Preiser stands with those world class achievers.”
Prior to forming WVAJ, Preiser had his own firm where he practiced family law, civil law and criminal defense. He served as chair of the WVAJ annual convention for decades and was an advocate for women attorneys, including Barabara Allen, the first female attorney he hired.
“Going to work for Stanley was the luckiest and best thing that ever happened to me,” Allen said in a 2010 interview. “Stanley let me go into the courtroom and try cases at a time when most women attorneys were tucked away in the libraries and kept out of sight.”
Education was also important to Preiser as he worked to provide information, skills and strategies to attorneys nationwide. He also established WVAJ’s student group at the West Virginia University College of Law. There, he also provided assistance in trial advocacy classes and held seminars for the students of the college.
“Stanley was a leader in the effort to establish trial lawyer associations at both the state and national level,” McCarthy noted. “He recognized the critical roles these associations could and would play in both education and advocacy. It is without question that lawyers practicing today can represent their clients more effectively because of Stanley’s tireless efforts.”
Preiser’s son Monty Preiser accepted the Hall of Fame award at the AAJ convention.
“Throughout his life, Dad fought for the individual rights of the people of the United States," Preiser, who was president of WVAJ in the 1985 to 1986 term, said. “He was an early founder of the education model that taught plaintiffs’ lawyers nationwide how to compete against the rich, powerful law firms that represented the big insurance companies and other corporations.
"He wanted to ensure that plaintiffs had access to attorneys, and that those attorneys had the education and skills they needed to ensure their clients could get justice in our courts. It was that commitment that led to the creation of groups like WVAJ and AAJ”
Preiser was born in Charleston and graduated from the University of Virginia. He earned his J.D. from the University of Louisville and his Master of Law degree in Taxation from New York University.