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Rolando Acosta for Civil Court Judge, c. 2002

Acosta for Civil Court Judge

Acosta for Civil Court Judge

Dominican Studies Institute, CUNY, DSI_JuPa_B8_53
Document Description
Primary election poster for Rolando T. Acosta, candidate for civil court judge, c. 2002.
Was Rolando Acosta right in choosing a law degree over a possible career as a major- league baseball pitcher?
How did Acosta become a civil court judge? When?
How does Acosta show pride in his Dominican roots?
How did Acosta attract notice as a judge and community leader?
Where do most Dominicans in New York City live?
What is a primary election?
Historical Challenges
Locate Washington Heights (West 180s) and Inwood (West 207th St.) on a map of Manhattan.
  1. In which direction does Broadway run?
  2. Where is Inwood Park?
Name two baseball players from the Dominican Republic.
Rolando T. Acosta is presently a State Supreme Court Justice. What kinds of cases does a New York State Supreme Court Justice hear?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a campaign ad for Rolando Acosta that would appear on television.
Art: Create a baseball card of Rolando Acosta’s accomplishments.


Historical Context
Judge Rolando T. Acosta arrived in The Bronx at age fourteen from Santiago, Dominican Republic. He spoke not a word of English. Although he showed great promise as both a scholar and a baseball player, he chose to study at Columbia University, where he obtained a law degree. He was also a noted pitcher for the Columbia College Lions.

The first Dominican elected to a county-wide civil court judgeship in New York, and then to the New York State Supreme Court, Acosta is proud of his heritage. One of his hobbies is collecting memorabilia from Dominican cultural heroes, including baseball ace Pedro Martinez and merengue star Fernando Villalona.

One of the milestones for Judge Acosta on his way to the State Supreme Court was presiding over the New Harlem Community Justice Center as a civil court judge, where he won praise for the compassionate way he handled low-level crimes, “calling the defendants by their first names and imploring them to listen to their parents’ advice.” Acosta often dealt with housing, family, and drug issues by ordering counseling, drug treatment, job training, and mentoring.

Cases heard by Judge Acosta that have attracted attention have dealt with pornography, sexual offenses, and defamation of character.  In one case, he ruled that a woman could keep a $40,000 engagement ring from a man who had proposed to her, because she found out that he was already married. As First Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights, Acosta ruled in a case concerning age discrimination at a movie theater that, unless rowdiness was involved, the “sweeping exclusion of whole groups of people based on their age will not be allowed."  

Judge Acosta’s career reflects the growing importance of Dominicans as the second-largest Hispanic community in New York City. Since the 1980s, this community has become rooted in the Washington Heights and Inwood sections of upper Manhattan, where Dominican shops, small businesses, and social and political organizations flourish.
Essential Question
How does cultural diversity influence politics?
Check for Understanding
Describe the man in the photograph and explain the significance of his role in the community.