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Until David Rudenstine popped the question, it seems that no New York law school had ever asked. The answer was yes. And so, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will inaugurate the latest addition to the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law by hearing a case on Oct. 8 in Cardozo’s sleek new Jacob Burns Moot Courtroom — crown jewel of the institution’s $40 million renovation program begun in 1997 and now complete. One afternoon last week in his 10th-floor office, Dean Rudenstine took a moment to reflect on the meaning of Chief Judge John M. Walker Jr.’s acceptance on behalf of the 2nd Circuit panel. Walker was persuaded by the fact that Cardozo Law marks its 25th anniversary this year. “This is a milestone in the history of a very young law school,” said Rudenstine, who was named dean two years ago, Cardozo’s first dean drawn from its professorial ranks. “I am very grateful to Judge Walker, and to the court’s expression of trust and confidence in the law school. We’ve come of age in so many different ways.” One of those other ways came thanks to another federal court judge — namely Eastern District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. At the urging of Judge Johnson and plaintiff’s attorneys in settlement of Bodner v. Banque Paribas [97 Civ. 7433 (SJ)] and Benisti v. Banque Paribas [98 Civ. 7851 (SJ)], Cardozo Law was recently allocated $2.25 million of residual funds in the landmark lawsuit against banks in Paris and New York implicated in the plundering of accounts by Jewish customers during the Nazi occupation of France. According to Kenneth F. McCallion, one of the plaintiff attorneys, interest on the special fund will be used to augment Cardozo’s existing Holocaust clinical program, a graduation requirement. “We’re working to develop a Holocaust and human rights program relating to remedies and restitution of properties taken [from European Jews] during World War II,” said McCallion, who has become an adjunct professor at Cardozo and a member of the advisory board to the special fund. “The basic idea was that this allocation would provide additional resources so that Holocaust studies and our clinical program could be expanded.” Of this special fund — so new it is still unnamed — and next month’s special day for the moot courtroom and the series of ribbon-cuttings that have added some 35,000 square feet of new space at Cardozo during the renovation period, Rudenstine took modest credit. “You know, I’ve been here forever,” he said, referring to his joining Cardozo’s first faculty in 1978 as a constitutional law professor. “And so I’m acutely aware of the roles so many others have played in all this. It just so happens we reached completion on my watch.” Also during Rudenstine’s two years’ watch, the (source to be inserted) measures Cardozo this way: student applications rose from 2,800 to 4,700; median LSAT scores rose three points across the board; and one-quarter of Cardozo graduates ranked among the nation’s top 7 percent of law students. “For any law school, these are statistics to be proud of,” said Rudenstine. “Given how far we’ve come in so short a time, it turns your head.” Two other head-turning factors are the Innocence Project, the DNA program run by trial attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld (also adjunct professors at Cardozo), and recognition of the school in the summer 2003 issue of a national trade magazine for corporate executives. “The Innocence Project has put Cardozo on the map,” said Rudenstine of the clinic that has seen more than 100 death row prisoners exonerated, a program that has been replicated by some 20 university campuses around the country. “It’s been a powerful dynamic in getting the name of Cardozo out there.” In its July/August issue devoted to the legal world, Corporate Board Member magazine named Cardozo “one of four lesser-known schools that were among the leaders in supplying talent to our top 20 [law] firms last year.” Underscoring the magazine’s notice was the surprising turnout for a luncheon Rudenstine hosted several months ago for law firm hiring partners who had never visited Cardozo’s campus. Rudenstine made arrangements with a caterer for an on-campus affair, with the understanding that plans could be canceled in the event that only a handful of invitees responded. As it turned out, all 35 invited firms sent partners. Now, on Oct. 8, comes the 2nd Circuit panel to the Jacob Burns Moot Courtroom, named for the late attorney, painter and philanthropist. “I’m sure it will be a sold-out event,” said Rudenstine, wryly. To determine just how to allocate the 250 available observer seats in the lobby courtroom and some 120 additional seats in classrooms with closed-circuit television monitors, the dean added, “I’ve given that over to other people. They’re working on it, as they say.”

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