This past spring Judge Harold A. Ackerman’s immediate family, joined by the judicial clerks who served him during his 40-plus years on the bench, formed a committee in search of a way to pay tribute to a jurist with boundless curiosity who threw himself into his cases and who treated his clerks like family.
Thanks to their dedication, Judge Ackerman, who passed away in December 2009 at the age of 81, is now the namesake of the Honorable Harold A. Ackerman Judicial Fellowship. The fellowship will be awarded annually to a Seton Hall Law student who accepts a full-time internship with a United States District Judge in the summer following his or her first or second year of law school.
Sheppard Guryan, Senior Partner at Lasser Hochman in Roseland, who served as Judge Ackerman’s first law clerk in 1967, explained the mission of the judicial fellowship: “I was honored to enter the legal profession as a judicial clerk, but I didn’t just become Judge Ackerman’s clerk: he welcomed me as a member of his family. And though this award will certainly provide financial support to talented law students, we also want to welcome Ackerman Fellows into the family that has benefited us, his former clerks. We are here for those Fellows, just as Judge Ackerman was there for us, as trusted friends and lifelong mentors.”
Judge Ackerman was first attracted to the law while he served in the Army from 1946 to 1948. A graduate of Seton Hall University, he graduated from Rutgers Law in 1951 and entered private practice. He was appointed as a New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Judge in 1955, and rose through a series of assignments until he reached the U.S. Federal Court, to which he was appointed by President Carter in 1979. He was named a senior judge in 1994. He was known for training himself to grasp all the facts of his cases. Once, he spent time observing surgeries so he could better understand a dispute regarding medical procedures. He is perhaps best known for presiding over what was then the longest federal criminal trial in the nation’s history. In what was considered to be one of the most ambitious efforts in state history to cripple an alleged racketeering operation, 20 alleged members of the Lucchese crime family were put on trial. After nearly two years in the courtroom, during which Judge Ackerman ruled on 100 motions, the jury acquitted all defendants.
Rosemary Ackerman Rupp, Judge Ackerman’s daughter, commented: “My father had many passions. He loved to travel through Europe, he was fascinated by politics and the labor movement. But his greatest loves were his country, the court, and his family. This Fellowship is a wonderful way for all of us – my own family and the many clerks who became family to my father as well – to perpetuate his legacy.”
The committee set a goal to raise $100,000 to create an endowment that will generate funds into perpetuity; to date over half of that amount has already been pledged or paid. If you are interested in learning how you can support the Honorable Harold A. Ackerman Judicial Fellowship, please contact Andrea DeChellis Cascarano at Andrea.DeChellis@shu.edu, or call 973-642-8092.