Judge John F. Keenan (LAW ’54) was awarded the 2009 Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize at the annual Stein Dinner on Oct. 29.
He was the 34th recipient of this national honor, bestowed by Fordham Law’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics, which recognizes one person 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.”
“[John’s] commitment to serving the public has brought great credit to the legal profession,” said Dean William Michael Treanor, before presenting Judge Keenan with the award. “He has inspired and mentored countless attorneys and judges—those who join him in his stewardship of Lou Stein’s legacy. The winners of the Fordham-Stein Prize form a pantheon of the legal profession, and tonight’s recipient deservedly joins them.”
After accepting the prize, Judge Keenan gave remarks expressing his gratitude: “For my name to be added to the list of recipients of the Fordham-Stein Prize is indeed a humbling experience for me. And for it I shall be eternally grateful. The roster of former recipients is more than impressive—it is overwhelming!”
After graduating from Fordham Law and serving for two years in the U.S. Army, Judge 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.
In 1983, Judge Keenan was appointed United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York in by President Ronald Reagan.
Judge 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 joins a list of Stein Prize recipients who are leaders in 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.