HARRISBURG (Feb. 11, 2021) – Pennsylvania Bar Association President David E. Schwager issued the following statement about the passing of longtime state senator Stewart J. Greenleaf Sr., 81, of Montgomery County:
“Senator Greenleaf was the longtime and influential chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was a strong supporter of an independent judiciary and worked in close partnership with the Pennsylvania Bar Association regarding many issues for decades.
“Senator Greenleaf was a prolific legislator. During his 42 years in the state Senate, he succeeded in having more legislation enacted than any other member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He was the prime sponsor of more than 160 bills signed into law and cosponsor of more than 325 bills signed into law.
“Part of the mission of the PBA is ‘to see that no one, on account of poverty, is denied his or her legal rights.’ Senator Greenleaf long understood that access to legal services should not be denied based on income. Therefore, he was a long-time advocate for civil legal services and he successfully improved funding for civil legal aid. In continued demonstration of his support of the PBA’s civil legal service initiatives, Senator Greenleaf served as a commissioner on this association’s Commission for Justice Initiatives and he served on the PBA Task Force on Student Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Assistance. With the assistance of an American Bar Association grant, a statewide Civil Legal Justice Coalition was formed in 2013. Senator Greenleaf conducted three hearings that included extensive testimony on the great unmet needs for civil legal representation of the indigent in Pennsylvania.
“Senator Greenleaf was a man who evolved because time and experience brought him greater insight.
“In 1985, Senator Greenleaf was assuming chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a former prosecutor, he believed that stiff punishments and getting tougher and tougher on crime were the answers to making our communities safe.
“But, as several decades passed, Senator Greenleaf realized the ‘get tough on crime’ approach wasn’t having all the desired effects. In fact, there were unintended consequences, including dramatic increases in Pennsylvania’s prison population.
“Senator Greenleaf had the strength of character to change course to undo parts of his own signature achievements. He became an unexpected champion for criminal justice reform. He pushed for “clean slates" for people with criminal records, funding for indigent defense, protection from prosecution for sex-trafficking victims, treatment over punishment for people in addiction and increased access to DNA testing for exoneration. All of this speaks volumes about Stewart Greenleaf as a man focused on doing the right thing, even when it means undoing legislation originally believed to be a solution to fighting crime.
“Senator Greenleaf was a model for change by leading many legislators to reexamine their long-held beliefs and new facts and figures to come to different conclusions about better approaches to public policy.”
“We thank Senator Greenleaf for 42 years of bettering our justice system and for his commitment to protecting those most vulnerable in our society.”