Press Contacts: Erik Cummins, Matt Hyams, Olivia Thomas
The Honorable Rolando T. Acosta, who leads one of the nation’s most important courts as Presiding Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, is set to join Pillsbury’s market-leading litigation practice as a partner. Widely recognized as one of the foremost jurists in the United States, Justice Acosta has spent more than 25 years as a sitting New York judge, earning a reputation for his uncompromising adherence to the rule of law.
Justice Acosta announced his decision to step down in a February 10 New York Law Journal article. He will join Pillsbury on March 18, 2023, after he officially steps down from the bench.
As one of the United States’ preeminent legal minds, Justice Acosta represents another major recruiting success for Pillsbury’s New York office, and its Litigation Section more broadly. Over the past five years, the New York office has increased its lawyer population by more than 40 percent.
“I am immensely proud to welcome Justice Acosta to Pillsbury and our New York office,” said Firm Chair David Dekker. “Our clients will benefit greatly from his experience in one of the country’s most consequential venues, as well as the universal respect he has garnered among jurists and lawyers alike. His choice of Pillsbury reflects the strength of our platform and Pillsbury’s continuing growth in New York.”
Justice Acosta has been the Presiding Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, since his 2017 appointment by former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. In that time, the Court has undergone a swift and strategic modernization under Justice Acosta’s leadership, achieving improved efficiency and affording the public greater access to justice.
Justice Acosta has authored hundreds of judicial decisions on many areas of the law, including complex commercial matters and employment and anti-discrimination law. For example, in Williams v New York City Housing Authority, 61 AD3d 62 (2009), he analyzed for the first time New York City Human Rights Law claims separately and independently from analogous federal and state laws, eliminating federal and state requirements that harassing conduct be “severe or pervasive” to create liability under the city law. Williams has been adopted by various appellate courts, including New York State’s highest court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Of his decision to join the firm, Justice Acosta noted, “Pillsbury is well-known as a premier law firm, with an impressive history and a host of highly regarded practitioners. As a private practitioner, I look forward to continuing the work I’ve been doing—upholding the rule of law and instilling its critical importance —only now, from the other side of the bench.”
In 1997, Justice Acosta began his judicial career upon his election to a New York County Civil Court judgeship and was later designated an Acting Supreme Court Justice to oversee the creation of the Harlem Community Justice Center, a multi-jurisdictional, “problem-solving” court. In 2002, he was elected as a New York State Supreme Court Justice in New York County and was appointed an Associate Justice for the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2008. Prior to his judicial service, he held various posts with the Legal Aid Society, including Attorney-in-Charge of the largest civil trial office and Director of Government and Community Affairs. He also served as First Deputy Commissioner and as Deputy Commissioner for Law Enforcement at the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
“Justice Acosta’s sterling reputation and vast professional experiences in the New York court system are without peer,” said Deborah Baum, Pillsbury’s Global Head of Litigation. “His arrival puts our firm in a tier of its own when it comes to handling complex and high-profile matters in the State. We are beyond excited to offer that unparalleled level of expertise to our clients, and to have him as our partner.”
Justice Acosta has received numerous recognitions, including Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence; Columbia Law School’s Wien Prize for Social Responsibility; the New York State Bar Association Judicial Section’s Distinguished Jurist Award; the Latino Judges Association’s John Carro Award for Judicial Excellence; the Jewish Lawyers Guild’s Golda Meir Memorial Award; and the National Hispanic Bar Association’s Judge of the Year. He is actively engaged in community service as well, currently serving on the Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts, the New York City Bar Association’s Council on the Profession, the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Free Expression in the Digital Age and as a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation. He has previously been president of the Latino Judges Association, treasurer and chair of the Policy Committee of the Hispanic Federation, and a legal adviser to the founding board of Alianza Dominicana. He also helped found the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, and is a Trustee of Columbia University and a member of the Dean’s Council of Columbia Law School.
Pillsbury’s award-winning team of more than 200 litigators and trial lawyers works with clients around the world to help them successfully resolve disputes, in trial and out of court, at home and in jurisdictions around the globe. The firm has garnered dozens of top-tier recognitions as a result of its exceptional litigation prowess and was most recently recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the most feared law firms to come up against in litigation by BTI Consulting Group.