Jed S. Rakoff has served since March 1996 as a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York. He frequently sits by designation on the 2nd and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals. His most noteworthy decisions have been in the areas of securities law and criminal law. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law and teaches at University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the University of Virginia School of Law. He has written over 180 published articles, 835 speeches, and 1,800 judicial opinions and has co-authored five 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).
Rakoff holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College (1964), an M.Phil. from Oxford University (Balliol, 1966), and a J.D. from Harvard Law School (1969). He clerked for Judge Abraham L. Freedman on the U.S. Court of Appeals, 3d Circuit. From 1973 to 1980, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, the last two years as chief of Business and Securities Fraud Prosecutions. From 1980 to 1995, he was a litigation partner at two large law firms in New York.
Rakoff served on the National Commission on Forensic Science (2013–2017) 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 2nd 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 third edition of the Reference 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 Award for excellence in federal jurisprudence and in 2021 the American College of Trial Lawyers’ Leon Silverman Award for Distinguished Public Service.
Rakoff is married to Dr. Ann Rakoff, a child development specialist. They have three daughters and two grandsons. Rakoff has officiated at over 75 weddings. He is the author of numerous lyrics and humorous poems, several of which have been published. His and his wife’s hobby is ballroom dancing. In 2014, Rakoff was listed by Fortune magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.