FIU law dean Alexander Acosta interviewing for UF law dean post
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 4:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 4:24 p.m.
Alexander Acosta has capped a long career as a federal prosecutor with a five-year stand as the second dean of the Florida International University College of Law.
RENE ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Current residence: Coral Gables
Spouse: Jan Elizabeth Williams Acosta, 38
Dean, College of Law, Florida International University (2009-present)
U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Florida (2005-2009)
Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Division (2003-05)
Harvard Law School, J.D. 1994
Harvard College, B.A. Economics, 1990
Law Clerk, Hon. Samuel Alito,1994-95
Luncheon with faculty and alumni representatives 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday
**So that there is enough food for everyone attending, you are asked to RSVP to Colleen Flage at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Room 180 – Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom
For those who can't attend the event will be streamed live online.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Find more about the candidates for UF law dean on this UF website.
As a federal prosecutor in Miami, Acosta prosecuted such high-profile defendants as Jack Abramoff, Jose Padilla and leaders of the Cali drug cartel. His office went after white-collar criminals and health care fraudsters.
He has testified before Congress about legal issues on numerous occasions and has given presentations to the American Bar Association and other organizations. He has been ranked one of the most influential Hispanic leaders in the U.S. by several organizations.
The past five of his 20 years in the legal profession have been in academia, as an administrator. He has little if any academic scholarship published — a big concern among faculty weighing in on who will be the next dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Acosta told the 11-member search committee at his 75-minute screening interview three weeks ago that he felt his combination of academic, government and prosecutorial experience made him uniquely qualified.
“I am in the fifth year of a very successful deanship and was recently reappointed to an additional five-year term,” Acosta said in his cover letter.
But being dean at UF would be a step up — UF Levin College of Law was ranked 46th overall by U.S. News & World Report, compared with FIU College of Law’s rank of 105.
Acosta will get to explain why he’s the best candidate during a two-day visit here Thursday and Friday. He will meet with faculty, staff, students and administrators to make his case for why he should be the 12th dean of the Levin College of Law.
Robert Jerry, dean since 2003, will step down in June to return to teaching law at UF.
The new dean will assume the helm of a law college with nearly 1,000 students and close to 60 faculty at a time of major challenges for law colleges as they deal with declining enrollments and discussions about changing curriculum to meet the needs of the profession and a sluggish job market.
Acosta will meet with Jerry, associate deans, search committee members and get a tour of the law college and UF campus. He also will meet individually with UF President Bernie Machen and Provost Joe Glover. Glover ultimately will select Jerry’s replacement.
One faculty group, the Diversity and Community Relations Committee, wanted to sound out each candidate on their commitment to diversity. Acosta is the son of Cuban immigrants, and he said they stressed the importance of education. He went to the private Gulliver Academy in Miami, then went on to Harvard, from which he received his bachelor’s and law degrees.
“The ability to get a good education changes people’s lives,” he told the search committee three weeks ago.
The first-generation lawyer clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for a year before going into private practice prior to his first of three federal appointments.
In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Acosta to the National Labor Relations Board, where he served for a year before being appointed assistant attorney general of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he supervised 350 attorneys. Acosta served there until 2005, when he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, overseeing more than 280 lawyers and prosecuting major corruption and fraud cases.
Acosta was appointed dean of the FIU law school in July 2009. During his time there, he said, he raised $1.55 million for the law school last year and is on track to raise another $2 million this year. He said median LSAT scores have improved to 156, same as the University of Miami. The median GPA, full-time employment rate and Bar pass rate all exceeded those of UM, he said.
UF has a great reputation nationally, Acosta said, but is still provincial in its reach. Using the law school’s own self-study, Acosta pointed out areas where he could help expand its footprint — in alumni giving, judicial placements, placing lawyers in New York, Washington, D.C., and other big cities outside of Florida.
“There is no excuse for Florida to not have a great university system and a great law school,” Acosta said. “We’re a massive state with massive resources … This law school has the potential to be among the top 10 public law schools.”