“I want to talk about a court that deserves the title heroic,” said Senior U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York Jed S. Rakoff as he delivered the Distinguished Scholar Lecture at the 25th Annual Ruby R. Vale Interschool Corporate Moot Court Competition
on Friday, March 25th to competition participants and Widener Law Faculty and students.
“Why do I call it heroic?” he asked before answering, “In the last few years, 49 Iraqi judges have been assassinated.”
This past December, Rakoff traveled to Iraq to co-chair a four-day workshop on letters of credit in Baghdad that the U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Law Development Program sponsored. The participants in the program were judges on Iraq’s International Commercial Court, which has jurisdiction over business disputes that involve a foreign party.
“The Iraqi judiciary is the one truly stable element in this unstable country,” said Rakoff of the reason that judges are targeted for assassination by Al-Qaeda.
Praising the Iraqi judges for their courage, he said, “On the first day I was in Iraq, 30 Iraqis were killed,” adding, “There is not a day that passes in Iraq without a terrorist attack.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Judge Rakoff took a few questions from the audience about his experiences in Iraq, including whether he found any of the judges wavering in their commitment given the violence. He indicated that the judges had to live in a guarded compound, but that he had found no evidence of any of them hesitant to continue.
A graduate of Warthmore College, Rakoff earned a Master of Philosophy Degree from Balliol College at Oxford University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. After clerking for the Honorable Abraham Freedman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, he spent time in both private practice and as a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
President Bill Clinton nominated Rakoff to fill a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1995, and he was later confirmed and began serving in March of 1996, assuming senior status in 2010. He is the co-author of five books, more than 115 published articles, and more than 1,100 judicial opinions, and serves as an adjunct at Columbia Law School.