Fordham Law

Judge John Keenan to Receive Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize

August 10, 2009

Judge John F. Keenan '54 has been selected to receive the 2009 Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. He is the 34th recipient of this national honor, bestowed by Fordham Law School's Stein Center for Law and Ethics, which recognizes one individual each year whose work, according to the prize's charter, "exemplifies outstanding standards of professional conduct, promotes the advancement of justice, and brings credit to the profession by emphasizing in the public mind the contributions of lawyers to our society and to our democratic system of government.”

Keenan was appointed United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. The appointment came after Keenan served for several decades as one of New York's leading crime fighters.

“Judge Keenan was a legendary prosecutor in New York City and is one of the nation's most esteemed federal judges,” said William Michael Treanor, dean of Fordham Law. “Throughout his career he has fought aggressively for the advancement of justice and has epitomized the highest standards of legal ethics. He is an exceptional honoree.”

After graduating from Fordham Law and serving for two years in the U.S. Army, Keenan served as an assistant district attorney in New York County from 1956 to 1976. He rose to the position of chief assistant under District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. He headed the homicide bureau and prosecuted some of the city's most complicated and high-profile murder cases, earning a reputation as one of the nation's top trial lawyers.

Throughout his career in the DA's office he was known as a pillar of integrity at a time when repeated incidence of corruption plagued New York City law enforcement. In 1976 he was selected to serve the State of New York as Deputy Attorney General and Special Prosecutor of Corruption in New York City. His reputation for integrity also led to his subsequent appointments as New York City's Criminal Justice Coordinator and as Chairman and President of Manhattan's Off-Track Betting Corporation.

Keenan's reputation has continued to flourish during his 26 years as a federal judge. He was praised for a “statesmanlike” ruling in the complex case of the Union Carbide Corporation Gas Plant Disaster. He has evolved into a leader of the federal bench, serving on several national panels such as the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
“Judge Keenan has exemplified the values of the Fordham-Stein Ethics prize throughout his illustrious career,” said Bruce Green, co-director of Fordham Law School's Stein Center. “He has set an exceptional example for other lawyers to follow, both as a prosecutor and as a judge. We are pleased to honor him.”

Named after prominent Fordham Law alumnus Louis Stein, Class of  '26, the award recognizes the positive contributions of the legal profession to American society. Keenan will accept the prize at a dinner in New York on October 29.
"The Stein Center, which sponsors the prize, has become synonymous with the thoughtful discussion of law and ethics in the scholarly community and among members of the bar,” said Dean Treanor. “We are forever grateful to the members of the Stein family for their commitment to upholding this important tradition.”

Judge Keenan joins a list of recipients that is often referred to as the pantheon of American law, including seven members of the U.S. Supreme Court, two of whom were Chief Justices; three lawyers who have served as Secretary of State; and an Attorney General.

Contact: Stephen Eichinger