Judge Jed Rakoff

Jed Rakoff

  • Adjunct Professor of Law

Jed Rakoff has been an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School since 1988. He is also an adjunct professor at NYU Law School and teaches at Berkeley Law School and the University of Virginia Law School. 

He has served since 1996 as a federal district judge for the Southern District of New York. After clerking for Judge Abraham L. Freedman on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, he was an associate at the Debevoise firm (1970-1972); a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (1973-1980), where he was chief of business and securities fraud prosecutions (1978-1980); and a "white-collar" criminal defense lawyer at two large New York firms, Mudge Rose (1980-1990) and Fried Frank (1990-1996). 

Since going on the bench in 1996, Rakoff has authored over 1500 judicial opinions, and has also frequently sat by designation on the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. He has written over 170 published articles, 835 speeches, and 1800 judicial opinions, and has co-authored 5 books.  He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and the author of Why The Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free, and Other Paradoxes of Our Broken Legal System (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2021).

Judge Rakoff served on the National Commission on Forensic Science (2013-17) and as co-chair of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Eyewitness Identification.  He served on the New York City Bar Association’s Executive Committee and was chair of the Association’s Nomination, Honors and Criminal Law Committees. He was Chair of the Second Circuit’s Bankruptcy Committee, and of the Southern District of New York’s Grievance Committee and Criminal Justice Advisory Board.  He served on Swarthmore College’s Board of Managers, on the Governance Board of the MacArthur Foundation’s Project on Law and Neuroscience, and on the Committee on the Development of the 3rd Edition of the Manual on Scientific Evidence.  

He assisted the U.S. Government in the training of foreign judges in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia, Dubai, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.  He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. He is a Judicial Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.  He is a member of the board of the Touro Synagogue Foundation and of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.  Among many other awards, he received in 2018 the Federal Bar Council's Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence and in 2021 the American College of Trial Lawyers’ Leon Silverman Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Judge Rakoff holds a B.A. degree from Swarthmore College (1964), an M.Phil. degree from Oxford University (Balliol, 1966), and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School (1969).  He clerked for Hon. Abraham L. Freedman, US Court of Appeals, 3d  Circuit. From 1973-80, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, the last two years as Chief of Business Fraud Prosecutions.  From 1980-95, he was a litigation partner at two large law firms in New York, Mudge Rose (1980-1990) and Fried Frank (1990-1996).