The Honorable William M. Skretny, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Western District of New York, presided at the ceremony, as The Honorable Richard J. Arcara welcomed the attendees. Due to a growing workload in the Western District, Skretny and Arcara began making the case for a new federal courthouse in Buffalo well over 10 years before the approval for funding the structure passed congress in 2007.
According to Greg Peterson, Jackson Center co-founder, the effort to name the courthouse for Jackson had its beginning in March 2008, with an editorial comment in the Buffalo News that suggested the new federal courthouse at Niagara Square be named for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice. “Thus began a four-and-a-half year campaign to see it finally become a reality,” noted Peterson.
Peterson thanked early supporters, including former State Assemblyman Rolland Kidder, former Lieutenant Governor Stan Lundine, and Jackson scholar John Q. Barrett. Other key supporters were Congressman Brian Higgins, who introduced a bill to name the courthouse after Jackson in 2011, and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who championed the bill before the Senate. The bill was signed into law almost a year ago by President Obama.
“The federal courts are often called the guardians of the Constitution because their rulings protect rights and liberties guaranteed by it. Jackson’s legal career and life clearly defined his role as one of its most dedicated guardians,” said James C. Johnson, President and CEO of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. “Naming the courthouse in honor of Jackson is a fitting tribute to the most decorated member of the federal judiciary to ever have come from the Western New York region.”
Speakers for the event included The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann, newly appointed Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; John Q. Barrett, Professor of Law at St. John’s University and Jackson biographer; Denise L. Pease, Regional Administrator, U.S. General Services Administration; and The Honorable Byron Brown, Mayor for the city of Buffalo.
A personal reflection on Justice Jackson’s life was given by granddaughter Julia Craighill, who characterized the grandfather she never knew as having “a love of his hometown of Spring Creek, PA, as well as the great outdoors, and a reverence for “what the natural world has to teach us.” Jackson returned to Spring Creek for family camping trips each summer, where, Craighill related, “he was the only one who could make flawless pancakes on an open fire.”
Near the conclusion of the ceremony, Peterson and Craighill unveiled a bust of Jackson that will be displayed in a place of prominence within the courthouse. An identical bust was presented to United States Chief Justice John Roberts by Jackson family members during his visit to the Robert H. Jackson Center last spring.
Born in rural Warren County, Jackson was a country lawyer in Jamestown, NY, who subsequently served as Solicitor General, Attorney General, and as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Following World War II, Justice Jackson was selected by President Truman to be the Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, where he personally led the trials against the senior Nazi leadership for crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. His writings and actions have come to personify the American ideal of fairness and justice for all.
The Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York was established to honor and advance Justice Jackson’s remarkable legacy, pursue the relevance of his life’s work, and to provide an educational facility for those purposes. More information about the Center can be found at www.roberthjackson.org
Pictured in front of the Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse in Buffalo, from left, Peggy Morgan, Jennifer Champ, James C. Johnson, Deb Pacos, Carol Drake, Tom Loftus, John Barrett, Father Moritz Fuchs, Honorable Joseph Gerace, Doug Neckers, John Anderson, Randy Sweeney, Greg Peterson.
Photo courtesy of the Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown