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Torts With a Side of Fries

By JEFF VANDAM
Published: February 5, 2006
The New York Times

WITH the swearing-in last week of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. by new Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., one can only imagine what the jurists' respective law schools, Yale and Harvard, might name in their honor now that they have reached the nation's highest court. The Roberts Reading Room? The Alito Atrium?

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Geraldo's cafe, a tip of the hat to one of Brooklyn Law School's more notable graduates.

Brooklyn Law School, in Downtown Brooklyn, has not produced any Supreme Court justices not yet. But the school is rising in prominence on various rankings lists, and when it came to naming the cafe inside the recently opened Feil Hall, a brick tower of well-appointed student apartments on State Street, there was one alumnus and generous donor whose name seemed right: Geraldo Rivera.

Mr. Rivera (class of 1969), the gregarious, mustachioed journalist who is the host of the syndicated program "Geraldo at Large," is not a regular fixture at the cafe that bears his name, a modern oval space with wide-screen flat-panel television sets and plenty of tan leather easy chairs. But for students who study at Geraldo's, and enjoy its White Castle burgers and two varieties of gummy worms (neon and sour), the man whose caricature hangs on the wall ranks somewhere between myth and legend.

Brian Ellexson, 25, took a break from his contracts textbook to recall a meeting with Mr. Rivera during a dedication event. With the knowledge that he and Mr. Rivera both attended the University of Arizona, Mr. Ellexson approached the news legend ("shorter in person") with a test.

"I went up to him and said, 'Bear down,' " Mr. Ellexson recalled, repeating an Arizona school mantra that is like a handshake between its students. "He looks back at me and says, 'Bear down, dude.' He passed with flying colors."

Over in a corner near the outdoor terrace, three students were putting final touches on a flier for a new yoga club, which will be taught by a professor of legal writing and will introduce the sun salutation pose to Geraldo's. All expressed gratitude for a pleasant, quiet place to study, but they took a moment to remember a few other famous alumni.

"There's George, the guy from 'The Apprentice' who sits next to Trump," Mary Anne Mendenhall said. "And I think Paul Simon went here for a little while hold on, I'm Googling it right now."

While Ms. Mendenhall found some support for her belief on www.paul-simon.info, she wasn't sure whether Mr. Rivera himself would stop by the yoga club.

"I don't actually know if Geraldo has a yoga interest," she said.