Stanley Schwartz (in the striped tie), with Ethel and Robert Kennedy during a campaign visit to Santa Barbara in 1968.

Courtesy Photo

Stanley Schwartz (in the striped tie), with Ethel and Robert Kennedy during a campaign visit to Santa Barbara in 1968.

Stanley Schwartz Dies

A founder of Santa Barbara’s Legal Aid Foundation and one of the attorneys to wrest economic damages from Union Oil after the 1969 spill, Stanley Schwartz died on January 30 at his home in Grass Valley. Schwartz graduated from UCSB’s Riviera campus in 1947, where he met his wife, Shirley, and from Hastings College of the Law in 1952. Active in the Democratic Party, Schwartz was tapped by the State Bar in the 1950s to chair its legal aid committee. In a memoir Schwartz wrote for Legal Aid’s 50th anniversary in 2009, he recalled that “a large number of our community were being treated horribly by landlords, had domestic problems,” and he thought help, “not a fancy court trial,” could be a matter of a phone call from someone who knew the ropes. He also wrote, “Lawyers say: We do pro bono work all the time and I say crap.”

Stan Schwartz
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

Stan Schwartz

Legal Aid in Santa Barbara succeeded because Stan Schwartz fought for it and also because he devised an effective funding system. Instead of looking to outside sources, he came up with the “heretical” idea that the attorneys themselves would be assessed annually based on their years of practice. It worked so well that bar associations around the country contacted them to find out how to do the same. Tom Storke donated a storefront on the 700 block of State Street, Schwartz wrote, Louis Renga was their first hire and Della Ulmer their secretary; otherwise, the attorneys were volunteers, as many are today.

The January 1969 oil spill presented a new kind of disaster for motel and hotel owners dependent on tourism, Schwartz recalled. It took four years to achieve a settlement based on a loss of profits in the years after the spill. Even though there had been no physical damage to his 31 clients’ properties, “the oil spill shut down Santa Barbara as a tourist town,” he related.

He was proud that he could choose his cases and felt that his real treasure was his wife of 59 years, and his home life: They had four children and eight grandchildren. “I never missed a meal,” he wrote.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Senior Fair Hosts the ‘Young at Heart’

The Senior Fair brought together more than 25 organizations to match needs with services.

City College Ranked #1 by Value Colleges

High graduation rate, community service, and online degree programs made SBCC a 'flawless investment.'

News Commentary: Ribbon Cutting Is Not As Easy As It Looks

Grand opening for new Eastside bridge conveys a tingle of progress.

Santa Barbara Rental Prices Have Skyrocketed Over the Last Five Years

The average rent for a South Coast studio is $1,553.

Trio Stops the Show at Board of Education

More than a dozen appeal to Santa Barbara Unified School District to maintain music classes and programs.