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Watch: Jed Rakoff '64

At Collection, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff '64 lauded the College's emphasis on "academic rigor coupled with social consciousness" and reminded the reunion crowd of the importance of free speech. He ended his talk by leading the crowd in singing "We Shall Overcome." Journalist Jamie Stiehm '83, who gave her own talk during the weekend, wrote about Rakoff's address in U.S. News & World Report. Read his full remarks. [pdf]

Rakoff, the federal judge of New York's Southern District, last spoke at Swarthmore in 2011 to give the Constitution Day lecture, "My Neurons Made Me Do It," in which he discussed how neuroscience is challenging the law's view of criminal and moral responsibility.

Rakoff, widely recognized for his legal opinions in the areas of securities and copyright law and constitutional rights, is the author of three books, over 100 articles, and co-author of two multi-volume reference works on the law. He is perhaps best well known for ruling the federal death penalty unconstitutional in 2002 (later overturned on appeal) and for taking on Wall Street firms and the SEC. As recently noted in the New York Times, his rulings "inspired other judges to question a handful of securities cases" and as a result "became something of a celebrity, a representative of the effort to crack down on Wall Street misdeeds."

Rakoff received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Swarthmore in 2003. He has also served on Alumni Council and is the founder of the College's popular Extern Program. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013.