Esteemed Public Servant and Founder of the School’s Center for New York City Law
Recognized for Outstanding Contributions in State and Local Government Affairs
New York (August 3, 2016) — New York Law School (NYLS) professor Ross Sandler has been selected by the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of State and Local Government Law as this year’s Jefferson B. Fordham Lifetime Achievement honoree. This award is presented in recognition of outstanding contributions to the practice of state and local government law by an individual over an entire career, or for contributions over a number of years of service.
Sandler has spent over 45 years in various facets of public service. He joined NYLS in 1993 where he founded the Center for New York City Law with a plan to utilize New York City as the perfect backdrop for educating law students about state and municipal government and law. As head of the Center, Sandler created the publications CityLaw, CityLand, and CityRegs, which report on different aspects of New York City administrative decisions. The Center also maintains CityAdmin, a free research web site which makes available 125,000 New York City administrative decisions from 28 New York City agencies.
In 1994, Sandler created the Center’s acclaimed CityLaw Breakfasts, widely known for featuring unfiltered discussions with prominent leaders in policy and government in a public forum. There have now been 134 CityLaw Breakfasts. Sandler currently hosts six to eight CityLaw Breakfasts each year with NYLS Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell.
“Professor Sandler embodies the phrase civic -minded,” said Dean Crowell. “I have seen firsthand the incredible growth and success that he has achieved as the founder and guiding force of New York Law School’s Center for New York City Law. For the past two decades, his dedication has inspired countless students to practice in the fields of local government, public service, and land use. He has made the Center an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ways of municipal government. And he has created a space that unites public sector lawyers as a community of critical thinkers. New York Law School congratulates Ross on this fitting and well-deserved lifetime achievement award and thanks him for his many contributions to the School and to New York.”
“The Section of State and Local Government Law is proud and honored to present the Jefferson B. Fordham Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Ross Sandler,” said Donna Frazier, Chair of the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law. “He is a pioneer in the legal profession and in legal education, and we thank him for being a standard bearer in all aspects of state and local government law.”
Sandler’s decades of experience as a participant and observer of urban affairs have made him an influential figure in New York City government circles. From 1968 to 1972, Sandler was an Assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan. He rose to Assistant Chief Appellate Attorney and Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Unit, successfully prosecuting Hudson River polluters under federal laws that pre-dated the 1972 Clean Water Act. Later, in the mid-1970s, as Senior Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, he and his NYLS colleague Professor David Schoenbrod headed the Urban Environmental Unit, winning pivotal Clean Air Act cases.
In 1981, Mayor Edward I. Koch appointed Sandler as a Special Advisor on transportation. Sandler’s environmental law experience helped revitalize the City’s mass transit system. In 1986, Mayor Koch made Sandler the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, where he led a reorganization of the 8,000-person department and put in place a program of bridge maintenance and repair still followed today.
As a professor of law, he specializes in state and local government law, torts, and professional responsibility. He authored the book Democracy by Decree (Yale 2003) with Professor David Schoenbrod, which addressed the impact of federal consent decrees on the efficiency and responsiveness of state and local government. He also authored a book for law students, Jumpstart Torts (Wolters Kluwer 2012).
Honorees of the 19th Jefferson B. Fordham Awards will be acknowledged at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California on Friday, August 5, 2016.
Elected in 1949, Fordham was the first State and Local Government Law Section Chair. He was considered an urban visionary. He pioneered the concepts of home rule and the landmark decisions sustaining interdisciplinary studies under Bar sponsorship. He taught that the tough problems of local government did not lend themselves to simplistic solutions. His 1949 case book on Local Government Law revolutionized teaching and addressed dynamic legal issues such as planning and finance, housing and blight, transportation and congestion; in short, the entire range of urban problems whose solutions required a larger concept of community.
In 1998, the Section was inspired to establish the Jefferson B. Fordham Awards to honor the accomplishments of practitioners and institutions active in the varied areas of practice associated with state and local government law.