Memorial Honors Second Circuit Judge Lawrence Pierce ‘51


On February 24, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held an interactive virtual memorial celebration honoring Judge Lawrence Pierce ‘51, who passed away in 2020 at age 95.

Judge Pierce served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1971 to 1981, when he became only the third Black circuit judge appointed to the Second Circuit. He was on the Second Circuit bench until his retirement in 1995, becoming a senior judge in 1990. Judge Pierce was the first Black jurist in the Second Circuit to serve successively as a district and circuit judge. He was also the first Black member of the U.S. Foreign Surveillance Court, serving from 1979 to 1981.

Prior to his legal career, Judge Pierce served as a sergeant with the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy during World War II. After his graduation from Fordham Law in 1951, he held positions including staff attorney for the New York City Legal Aid Society and assistant district attorney for Kings County.

“He was, in particular, a loyal alumnus of Fordham,” said Second Circuit Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston.

Dean Matthew Diller first met Judge Pierce when he was clerking in the Second Circuit.

“He may have been soft-spoken and modest in person, but he spoke loudly through his actions,” Dean Diller noted in his remarks. “He was truly a giant in his achievements.”

Fordham Law School is launching the Lawrence W. Pierce Scholarship program to provide academic opportunities to students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the legal profession. Dean Diller noted, “The Pierce Scholars will carry on his legacy into the future.”



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