Attorney, Allegheny County, U.S. judge dies at 84, was mentor to many
Dinner tended to be a five-course debate around the table of the William Standish home in Sewickley.
All viewpoints were considered, said Baird Standish, eldest son of the prominent attorney who became a federal judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Retired U.S. District Judge William L. Standish, a Yale University graduate, a former Allegheny County Common Pleas judge and one of the original owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins, died early Thursday after a long illness. He was 84.
His son said all discourse in the family home was civil and cerebral — until someone started talking about hockey. Then, Judge Standish's passion emerged.
“It was pretty much, take the bus into town on Wednesday, go to my guitar lesson, meet dad for dinner and go to a hockey game,” said Baird Standish of Springfield, Montgomery County. “I think I must have gone to 200 hockey games growing up.”
Standish was a standout boxer, according to his family, and fell in love with hockey while at boarding school in New Hampshire.
He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia and worked his way from clerk in 1956 to partner in 1964 at Reed Smith, a Pittsburgh-area law firm.
He was elected to the Common Pleas Court in 1980 as a Republican endorsed by local unions. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1987. He became a senior judge in 2002 and retired in 2012.
His son said Standish would have kept on working if he could have.
“He encouraged everybody to follow their heart,” Baird Standish said.
“I've never actually met a guy who loved what he did as much as my dad.”
County President Judge Jeffrey Manning said he was a young lawyer when he met Standish and, like many others, considered him a gentleman jurist.
He was kind to all those who appeared before him, Manning said. He was the quintessential judge.
“He saw no contradiction in having a hard head and a soft heart,” Manning said.
Retired Allegheny County Judge Eugene Scanlon Jr. tried many cases as a lawyer before Judge Standish, both in county court and federal court. He said Standish was patient, smart and helpful as a judge and as a friend.
“For 10-plus years, he was a mentor to me,” Scanlon said. “He was one of only two or three to reach out and offer me advice in making the adjustment to the bench.”
Robert Cindrich, a former U.S. district judge in Pennsylvania's Western District, joined the court long after Standish. Cindrich said he viewed Standish with awe.
“He was inspiring, mainly by example,” Cindrich said.
Standish served as a volunteer or officer in many area organizations, including the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the Laughlin Children's Center.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Marguerite Oliver; his four children, Baird, N. Graham, James and Constance; and nine grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Megha Satyanarayana is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.