Stephen C. Robinson

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Stephen C. Robinson


Peter W. Martin

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Video Interview

Date of Recording





From the video archives of the Cornell Law School Heritage Project. The Interviewer is Peter W. Martin and the Videographer is Michael D'Estries. This video covers the education and subsequent career of Stephen C. Robinson.

Stephen Robinson was born in 1957 in Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied government at Cornell and earned his B.A. in 1981. Thereafter he earned a J.D., also at Cornell. He was the first black lawyer hired at Alexander & Green in New York City. In 1987 he became assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York under then U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

In 1991 Robinson was hired at Kroll Associates as associate general counsel and later managing director dealing with international private investigations. Two years later he became special assistant to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 1995 he became counsel and then chief compliance officer for Aetna, Inc., based in Hartford, Connecticut.

President William Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut in 1998. President George W. Bush appointed him federal district court judge in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in 2003. Seven years later he resigned to join the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as litigation partner.

Judge Robinson's career spans a wide variety of experiences including law firm practice, the FBI, an insurance company, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, chief executive officer of the non-profit Empower New Haven, senior research fellow at Yale Law School, and District Judge in the Southern District of New York. He grew up in a housing project to parents who worked as payroll clerk and probation officer and found himself passing judgement on people who could have been him if given different opportunities in life.

When he addressed the Cornell Black Students Association in 2011 he said he loves his work but does not enjoy sentencing. He said it was important to consider all factors, including personal responsibility and fairness, in making decisions from the bench. He showed that love can permeate even the smallest of interactions. A person's character will shape their success, but beyond the idea of public service or giving back to community, it is love that connects everyone and can change contemporary black America.

Judge Robinson has been recognized by the Department of Justice for Superior Service; has received the Chairman's award from Aetna U.S. Healthcare; has been named chair of the New York City Bar Association's Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession; and was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 17, 2014.


Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School alumni, Alexander & Green, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom




The initial phase of the project was sponsored by a generous grant from the law firm of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan LLP.