Jed Rakoff '64
Honorary Degree Citation


Jed Rakoff, you are a federal district judge in Manhattan, widely recognized for your legal opinions in the areas of securities and copyright law and constitutional rights - opinions which are cited as models of intellectual clarity and judicial vision by lawyers and judges throughout this nation.

At Swarthmore you constantly demonstrated your commitment to joining rigorous intellectual inquiry to social and political concern, and served as Student Council president, Phoenix editor, and president of the debate club, graduating with Honors in English Literature in 1964.

You went on to receive a Bachelor of Philosophy in History at Balliol College, Oxford, and to graduate cum laude from Harvard Law School, in 1969.

You then clerked for the Honorable Abraham Freedman of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia; in 1973, were appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, held partnerships in several New York law firms, and were named to the federal bench in New York in 1996.

You have authored three books, over 100 articles, and co-authored two multi-volume reference works on the law. The Supreme Court has cited your decisions and opinions on a number of occasions, and you are broadly recognized as a legal thinker, scholar and judge who not only elucidates and enforces the law, but interprets, defends and challenges it in light of the principles of ethics and social justice that it is designed to serve.

In 2002 citing recent cases which had been reversed on the basis of DNA evidence, you argued that innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed; and, in a landmark and fiercely independent decision, you ruled the federal death penalty unconstitutional. Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard praised your decision, saying: "I've been thinking about this issue in a serious way for at least 20 years, and this is the first fresh, new, and convincing argument that I've seen." And The New York Times described the ruling as "offering a cogent, powerful argument that all members of Congress - indeed, all Americans - should contemplate."

You are currently presiding over the enormously complex WorldCom settlement.

Your niece Hannah is a graduate of the Class of 2001; your daughter, Elana, a member of the Class of 2005; and you have served your alma mater with unreserved devotion, as a member of Alumni Council, founder and chair of the College's Extern Program - a program which has opened the doors for countless students as they embark on their own professional journeys; and most recently as chair of Alumni Council's ad hoc committee on consensus decision-making.

Jed Rakoff, your powerful and independent mind, your remarkable ability for comprehensive understanding, your rigorous impartiality, your tireless commitment to social justice and your exceptional record of placing those skills in the service of the public good, distinguish you in this nation's eyes and in the eyes of your own Swarthmore community.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.

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