John D. Feerick, Dean Emeritus and Professor, Fordham Law School, Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
By Susan Lindenauer, Chief Publicity Officer for the Foundation
The New York Bar Foundation will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to John D. Feerick, Dean Emeritus and Professor, Fordham Law School during the virtual Annual Assembly and Dinner of the Fellows on January 27, 2022. Dean Feerick has been a supporter of the Foundation and has left an indelible mark on his students. Nominated by the Fellows Chairs of the First Judicial District Sylvia Chin (White & Case) and Raymond Dowd (Dunnington Bartholow & Miller), his nomination reads, “During his lifetime, John has been a north star for all professional whose lives he has touched, whether or not they were aware of his enormous achievements. I dare say that he has touched the lives of all Fellows and the communities they serve in ways big and small that they may not even realize.” Dean Feerick has been a Fellow of the Foundation since 1981.
The New York Bar Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes extraordinary Fellows of the Foundation, their distinguished careers, and their exemplary service to the public good and the profession. The award is bestowed upon a Fellow who demonstrates outstanding professional achievement, dedication to the legal profession, and commitment to the ideals of the Foundation. The selection was made by the Lifetime Achievement Award Committee. President of the Foundation Carla Palumbo (President and CEO of The Legal Aid Society of Rochester) said, “John’s life work mirrors the mission of the Foundation of advancing service to the public, improving the administration of justice, and promoting high standards of professional ethics. His impacts on the community and to the profession are invaluable and innumerable. We look forward to celebrating John’s accomplishments on January 27.”
Dean Feerick stated, “I am humbled beyond words to be recognized with this Award and gratefully accept it in memory of those in the bar of the state with whom I have served over the past 60 years as a lawyer, including Chief Judge Judith Kaye, Archibald Murray, Judge Bernard Meyer, Cyrus Vance Sr., Herbert Brownell, Henry Miller, and Judge James King.”
Feerick helped draft the 25th Amendment to the Constitution which sets out the succession process for the U.S. presidency and established procedures for when the president is disabled, or the office of vice president must be filled. In 1964 the American Bar Association asked Feerick to participate in a conference on presidential inability and vice presidential vacancy because of his Fordham Law Review article on the gaps in presidential succession. He also authored a Pulitzer Prize-nominated book about presidential succession and is recognized as the preeminent scholar on the 25th amendment.
After an extraordinary career as a partner at Skadden Arps, where he played a major role in the labor law sphere; in 1982 he became Dean of Fordham Law. Feerick shaped the school’s ethics and dispute resolution curriculum and public service and clinical programs, including Fordham’s Feerick Center for Social Justice. The Feerick Center reflects his commitment to legal education in the service of others, mobilizing students, alumni, lawyers and community volunteers to connect low-income New Yorkers to needed, yet unaffordable legal resources while training law students and others to engage in social change.
Parallel to the efforts of the Foundation’s grant program, The Center has developed successful programs addressing a variety of social justice and access-to-justice issues including, related to asylum-seeking women in family detention and unaccompanied immigrant children, low-income veterans, and coerced debt and economic abuse of survivors of intimate partner and family violence domestic violence and debtor education. Today, at age 85, Dean Feerick actively serves as founder and senior counsel and currently teaches full time at the law school.
Feerick is a U.S. Army veteran, serving in the 77th Infantry Division and the 4th Judge Advocate General’s Corps. In his civilian career he chaired a joint committee that developed national mediation standards and he mediated and arbitrated sports, employment, and commercial disputes. Married for 59 years to the former Emalie Platt, Feerick and his wife have 6 children and 11 grandchildren.
Feerick is renowned for this ethics and integrity. He chaired the NYS Commission on Government Integrity, responsible for restoring the public’s trust in government after 1980’s corruption scandals. This was a Moreland Act Commission to which Feerick was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo as well as being appointed as a Special Deputy Attorney General on that occasion. He was president of the New York City Bar Association and Citizens Union Foundation, and chaired the NYS Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections to reform state judicial elections. Dean Feerick worked on a panel addressing New York’s homelessness crisis, was a member of the NYS Law Revision Commission, the NYS Committee to Promote Public Trust and Confidence in the Legal System, the NYS Judicial Salary Commission, and the NYS Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee. He currently, and for a number of years, co-chaired the Chief Judge’s Attorney Emeritus Council. He also served on the New York State Bar Association Bar House of Delegates, on its executive committee, and chaired its Committee on the Federal Constitution.
Chair of the Fellows, James R. Barnes (Burke & Casserly, Albany) said, “John epitomizes the principles and beliefs of the Fellows from impacting ethical behavior and responsibility to acknowledging that the practice of law is a helping profession with enhanced obligations of service to the community and the profession. He upholds the core values of the Fellows, and it is an honor to recognize him for his contributions.”