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Home | LawMakers | The Honorable Ronald L. Ellis
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Color: Blue
Food: No favorite.
Season: Spring
Birthplace
Lafourche Crossing, Louisiana
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 10/27/2016 |and| 11/11/2016

Federal district court magistrate judge The Honorable Ronald L. Ellis was born on July 4, 1950 in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana to Ella Mae Ellis and Herman Ellis. In search of better prospects, his father moved the family to New York City, where Ellis grew up. He attended St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School and Cardinal Spellman High School, where he graduated in 1968. Although Ellis earned his B.A. degree in chemical engineering from Manhattan College in the Bronx in 1972, he decided to pursue a legal career, and entered New York University School of Law as a recipient of the prestigious Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholarship.

During his second and third years of law school, Ellis found himself drawn to the civil rights mission of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF). After completing law school, he worked briefly as a patent attorney for Exxon before joining the NAACP LDF in 1976, where he specialized in fair employment class action litigation. From 1984 to 1990, Ellis served as the organization’s Fair Employment Program director. Ellis would also server as the NAACP LDF’s Poverty & Justice Program director, where he worked on the landmark civil rights case Sheff v. O’Neil. In 1993, Ellis was sworn in as a magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. As a magistrate judge, Ellis handled pre-trial matters, including arraignment and determining bail. Ellis drew notice in 2009 for deciding not to remand fraudulent investor Bernie Madoff, in light of allegations that he had violated the terms of his bail. He also ruled on the City of New York’s lawsuit against documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and refused to quash a subpoena demanding that the BBC, a foreign media service, release unaired footage from its documentary Arafat Investigated.

In addition to his courtroom duties, Ellis has mentored many law clerks. He has been an adjunct law professor at New York University School of Law, New York Law School and Columbia School of Law, often teaching courses on race and the law. He coauthored the chapter “Achieving Race and Gender Fairness in the Courtroom” in The Judge’s Book, and is a member of the Federal Bar Council and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.

Ellis and his wife, Kathleen, a retired librarian, have two sons, Jamil and Jelani, and a granddaughter, Alexandra.

The Honorable Ronald L. Ellis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 27, 2016.

Speaker Bureau Notes: