Judge A. Jay Cristol, who graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1959, and is Chief Judge Emeritus of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, recently made a $2 million commitment to create the Judge A. Jay Cristol Endowed Chair in Bankruptcy at his alma mater.
This gift is Judge Cristol’s second major donation to Miami Law: in 2012 he made a leadership gift towards the school’s bankruptcy clinic, which is now known as the Eleanor R. Cristol and Judge A. Jay Cristol Bankruptcy Pro Bono Assistance Clinic.
“Judge Cristol’s extraordinary generosity ensures that the law school will continue to excel in the field of bankruptcy law and public service and provide an outstanding education to future generations,” said Patricia D. White, Dean of the School of Law.
“Judge Cristol has devoted his professional and judicial career to education and mentoring of students,” said Patricia Redmond, Director of the Cristol Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic. “This generous gift reflects his commitment to ensuring that the University of Miami School of Law maintains a leadership role in bankruptcy legal education and scholarship.”
At 86, Judge Cristol continues to maintain a full calendar in his downtown Miami courtroom, and after 30 years on the bench still finds bankruptcy law fascinating. Between court hearings, he teaches as an adjunct faculty member at Miami Law, serves on the school's Steering Committe for its annual Bankruptcy Skills Workshop (this year on June 3), and keeps an active schedule of charity events. Judge Cristol also takes to the air behind the controls of a private aircraft whenever he gets the chance to fly angel flights which provide free transportation to and from regional medical centers for indigent adults and children.
Judge Cristol came to Miami Beach in the 1930s, his family fleeing the disastrous impact of the Depression on rural Pennsylvania. His parents opened a beachwear shop while he attended Miami Beach High School and, at 15, he surreptitiously took flying lessons "until my mother found out about it and grounded me."
The Korean War interrupted his education at the University of Miami. He joined the U.S. Navy and, after completing flight school, was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton in the Sea of Japan. He flew Grumman AF "sub killers" by day and so-called hunter-killers by night, completing 86 landings on aircraft carriers, 26 of them at night.
After the war, he returned to UM. He completed his undergraduate degree in Philosophy in 1958 and his J.D. in 1959, although his service in the Navy would continue until his retirement with the rank of captain in 1989. He joined the Judge Advocate General's Corps and graduated with distinction from the Naval Justice School. Judge Cristol flew operational missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis and volunteered for airlifts to Vietnam in the 1960s; lectured at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy, on assignment from the Department of Defense; and received more than a dozen decorations, among them the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Judge Cristol served as Special Assistant Attorney General of Florida, and after 25 years of civil law practice stepped down as senior partner in a firm he founded to accept an appointment to the Federal Bench. He earned a Ph.D. in 1997 from the University of Miami Graduate School of International Studies. He has spent 30 years researching an attack during the Six Day War on the USS Liberty, in which 34 Americans died. He wrote two books on the subject, The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship (Potomac Books, 2002) and The Liberty Incident, Revealed: the Definitive Account of the 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship (United States Naval Institute Press, 2013).
He has lectured on this subject at many venues including the University of Miami; Harvard; University of Tel Aviv; Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzlyia, University of Haifa; The United States Department of State; The National Security Agency; the Naval War College; and at the invitation of the Egyptian Military at the National Center for Middle East Studies in Cairo, Egypt.
Judge Cristol was President of the Law Alumni Association in 1985 and received the Thomas Davidson III Memorial Service Award. He also received the Henry Latimer Professionalism Award at the law school's Homecoming Breakfast in 2008 and the William M. Hoeveler Award for Ethics in Public Service in 2014. He also received the St. Thomas University Law School Outstanding Jurist Award in 2007, the Commercial Law League Lawrence P. King Judicial Administration Award for Excellence in the Field of Bankruptcy in 2013 and most recently in 2015 he received the American Bankruptcy Institute William L. Norton, Jr. Judicial Excellence Award.
"I love the University of Miami,” said Judge Cristol. “I am grateful for my law education that has enabled me to succeed in my profession and allows me to give back in a way that may help future law students to graduate, and do the right thing and help people."