United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
Seal of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
Appeals to First Circuit
Established September 12, 1966
Judges assigned 7
Chief judge Aida Delgado-Colon
Official site
Clemente Ruiz Nazario Courthouse, in Hato Rey, PR.

The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico (in case citations, D.P.R.; Spanish: Tribunal del Distrito de Puerto Rico) is the federal district court whose jurisdiction comprises the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The court is based in San Juan. The main building is the Clemente Ruiz Nazario U.S. Courthouse located in the Hato Rey district of San Juan. The magistrate judges are located in the adjacent Federico Degetau Federal Building, and several senior district judges hold court at the and housed at the Jose V. Toledo Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Old San Juan. The old courthouse also houses the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Most appeals from this court are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which is headquartered in Boston but hears appeals at the Old San Juan courthouse for two sessions each year. Patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act are appealed to the Federal Circuit.

The current United States Attorney is Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.[1]

Scope and relevance

The United States first established a federal court in Puerto Rico under the Foraker Act of 1900. This court was a territorial court, operating within what the Supreme Court would soon define in the Insular Cases as an unincorporated territory of the United States. As such, the court was established under Article IV rather than Article III of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States discussed the nature of the court in Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922). Because the court was a territorial court rather than a full-fledged District Courts, its judges did not enjoy Article III protections such as life tenure.

The District Court in Puerto Rico continued to be an Article IV court even after Puerto Rico attained its commonwealth status. However, in 1966, the U.S. Congress conferred life tenure on the federal judges of Puerto Rico, transforming the court into a full-fledged Article III district court with the same status as the other United States District Courts throughout the country. [2] The congressional report on the bill making this change described the change of status as being "appropriate in light of the court's caseload and the conferral of Commonwealth status on Puerto Rico," and also explained:

There is no reason why the U.S. District Judges for the District of Puerto Rico should not be placed in a position of parity as to tenure with all other Federal Judges throughout our judicial system. Moreover, federal litigants in Puerto Rico should not be denied the benefit of judges made independent by life tenure from the pressures of those who might influence his chances of reappointment, which benefits the Constitution guarantees to the litigants in all other Federal Courts. These judges in Puerto Rico have and will have the exacting same heavy responsibilities as all other Federal district judges and, therefore, they should have the same independence, security, and retirement benefits to which all other Federal district judges are entitled.

See 1966 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2786-90; see also Examining Bd. of Engineers Architects and Surveyors v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. at 595 n.26 (“The reason given for this [law] was that the Federal District Court in Puerto Rico ‘is in its jurisdiction, powers, and responsibilities the same as the U.S. district courts in the (several) states’.”). This important change in the federal judicialstructure of the island was implemented not as a request of the Commonwealth government, but rather at the repeated request of the Judicial Conference of the United States. See Senate Report No. 1504, 1966 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2786-90.

No similar law has been passed for the three insular territories that still have Article IV status, though there have been calls from time to time that these judges also deserve the protection of life tenure.

Current Judges

Chief Judge Aida M. Delgado-Colon

There are seven authorized active judgeships in the Puerto Rico District Court. Six active judges are currently sitting, together with four senior judges who may elect to supervise reduced caseloads.

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
16 Chief Judge Aida Delgado-Colon San Juan 1955 2006–present 2011–present G.W. Bush
8 District Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo San Juan 1940 1980–present 1993–1999 Carter
12 District Judge José A. Fusté San Juan 1943 1985–present 2004–2011 Reagan
15 District Judge Jay A. Garcia-Gregory San Juan 1944 2000–present Clinton
17 District Judge Gustavo Antonio Gelpi Jr. San Juan 1965 2006–present G.W. Bush
18 District Judge Francisco Besosa San Juan 1949 2006–present G.W. Bush
19 District Judge Pedro A. Delgado Hernández San Juan 1956 2014–present Obama
6 Senior District Judge Juan Manuel Perez-Gimenez San Juan 1941 1979–2006 1984–1991 2006–present Carter
10 Senior District Judge Raymond L. Acosta inactive 1925 1982–1994 1994–present Reagan
13 Senior District Judge Salvador E. Casellas San Juan 1935 1994–2005 2005–present Reagan
14 Senior District Judge Daniel R. Dominguez San Juan 1945 1994–2011 2011–present Clinton

Former Judges

# Judge State Born/Died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Cancio, Hiram RafaelHiram Rafael Cancio PR 1920–2008 1967–1974 1967–1974 Johnson, L.L. Johnson resignation
2 Fernandez-Badillo, Juan B.Juan B. Fernandez-Badillo PR 1912–1989 1967–1972 1972–1989 Johnson, L.L. Johnson death
3 Toledo, Jose VictorJose Victor Toledo PR 1931–1980 1970–1980 1974–1980 Nixon,Nixon death
4 Pesquera, Hernan GregorioHernan Gregorio Pesquera PR 1924–1982 1972–1982 1980–1982 Nixon,Nixon death
5 Torruella, Juan R.Juan R. Torruella PR 1933–present 1974–1984 1982–1984 Ford,Ford reappointment
7 Gierbolini-Ortiz, GilbertoGilberto Gierbolini-Ortiz PR 1926–2009 1980–1993 1991–1993 1993–2004 Carter,Carter retirement
9 Pieras Jr., JaimeJaime Pieras Jr. PR 1924–2011 1982–1993 1993–2011 Reagan,Reagan death
11 Laffitte, Hector ManuelHector Manuel Laffitte PR 1934–present 1983–2005 1999–2004 2005–2007 Reagan,Reagan retirement

Succession of seats

Article I Judges

Judges who served on the Court from 1900 to 1966, before it became an Article III court, were:

During this period, judges for the District of Puerto Rico were appointed by the President for 4-year terms until 1938, and thereafter for 8-year terms. The court statutorily comprised a single judge until 1961, when a second judgeship was authorized by Congress, although the position was not actually filled until 1965. Until the 1950s, when the District Court judgeship was vacant, when the judge was away from Puerto Rico, or when the court's docket became overly backlogged, sitting judges of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico were designated to act as judges of the federal court.

Judge Ruiz-Nazario, appointed by President Harry Truman in 1952, was the first Puerto Rican to serve as a judge of Puerto Rico's federal court.

See also


  1. ^ "Office of the United States Attorneys". Executive Office for United States Attorneys. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Public Law 89-571, 80 Stat. 764.
  • CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE v JOHNNY RULLAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO, The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, retrieved 2009-12-31 
  • CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE v. RULLAN. 586 F.Supp.2d 22 (2008). CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE, et al., Plaintiffs v. Johnny RULLAN, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Defendant. Civil Nos. 06-1260(GAG), 06-1524(GAG). United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico. October 10, 2008. As Corrected November 10, 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  • Opinion and Order: Consejo de Salud de la Playa de Ponce vs. Johnny Rullan, Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Gustavo A. Gelpi. USDC, D of Puerto Rico. San Juan, PR. Civil Numbers 06-1260 (GAG) and 06-1524 (GAG) (Consolidated). 10 November 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  • Guillermo A. Baralt, History of the Federal Court in Puerto Rico: 1899–1999 (2004) (Translated into English by Janis Palma, also published in Spanish as Historia del Tribunal Federal de Puerto Rico)

External links

  • Official Site
  • The Exclusion of Non-English-Speaking Jurors: Remedying a Century of Denial of the Sixth Amendment in the Federal Courts of Puerto Rico. Jasmine B. Gonzales Rose. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Vol. 46. (2011) Pages 497-549.