Hon. Rolando T. Acosta, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department will be the keynote speaker at the New York State Bar Association's fall meeting at the Bar Center in Albany. A native of the Dominican Republic, Acosta is the first immigrant to serve in that position.

Acosta and his family came to the United States when he was 14 and settled in the South Bronx. His parents, who did not graduate from high school, were firm believers in the power of education. Acosta was a talented student, graduating in the top of his class, and he went on to Columbia University. But he also was a talented baseball player. He led Columbia to the NCAA Championships and was twice named pitcher of the year in the Eastern Collegiate Baseball League.

Professional sports beckoned, but Acosta decided on law school. A judge's visit to Acosta's high school had inspired him to consider a career in the law.

There were other factors was well. Acosta's family was poor, but his parents emphasized that service to others was essential to living a good life. And Acosta had been impressed with the help his family had received from the Legal Aid Society at a critical time. When he made his decision, it was with the idea that his legal career would be in public service. Upon graduation from Columbia Law School, he joined the Legal Aid Society, working in the same office that had helped his family.

From there, he served two mayors and was elected New York City Civil Court judge in 1997. Acosta's judicial career includes six years as a state Supreme Court justice until his appointment to the Appellate Division in 2008. He was appointed presiding justice in 2017.