Hon. Rolando T. Acosta has been Presiding Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, since May 2017. During his tenure, the Court has modernized its systems—making the administration of justice more efficient and accessible to the public—and has enjoyed its highest level of productivity in recent memory. Justice Acosta serves 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 is a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation.
Justice Acosta’s judicial career began when he was elected to a countywide Civil Court judgeship in New York County in 1997. He was thereafter designated as an Acting Supreme Court Justice to preside over and spearhead 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. In 2008, he was appointed by the Governor to the Appellate Division, First Department, and served as an Associate Justice until his current appointment as Presiding Justice.
Justice Acosta served as President of the Latino Judges Association (then known as the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage) from 2004 to 2007. In 2008, he was awarded the Association’s John Carro Award for Judicial Excellence, “in recognition of his leadership and scholarly work as a New York State jurist and his work as a mentor and teacher with the Latino Community.” He was selected as the 2004 Judge of the Year by the National Hispanic Bar Association and was awarded the 2013 Golda Meir Memorial Award by the Jewish Lawyers Guild.
Justice Acosta has been active in the development of the Washington Heights/Inwood social service infrastructure for over thirty years. He helped found the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans and the Latino Commission on AIDS. He has also served as legal adviser to the founding board of Alianza Dominicana and as treasurer and Chair of the Policy Committee of the Hispanic Federation. He is a founding board member of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (EZ). Until 1999, Justice Acosta served on the EZ’s Executive Committee and chaired its Human Capital Development Committee, which he led in considering and recommending to the EZ Board all human capital and quality of life proposals.
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.
A proud graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School, Justice Acosta is the recipient of Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence and Columbia Law School’s Wien Prize for Social Responsibility. In 2008, he was inducted into the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame. He currently serves as a Trustee of Columbia University and as a member of the Dean’s Council of Columbia Law School.
Justice Acosta was raised in the South Bronx and Washington Heights, having immigrated from the Dominican Republic at the age of 14. He remains committed to community service and frequently speaks to new attorneys on the importance of giving back.