Thursday, September 29, 2022

Federal Judge Rescinds Retirement After the Nomination of First Latino to Serve on the District Court in New York

U.S. District Judge David Hurd reversed his decision to step back from the bench once he heard a Latino judge could serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. Prominent Latino legal and civil rights organizations have expressed their concerns about Hurd’s decision and urged him to reconsider.

Organizations including Latinos for a Fair Judiciary, LatinoJustice, Voto Latino, League of United Latin American Citizens, MALDEF, and Mi Familia Vota sent a joint letter to Hurd. The letter urges Hurd “to reconsider your decision to effectively block the appointment of Jorge Alberto Rodriguez — a highly qualified judicial candidate who would also make history.”

Hurd is 85 years old; his plan included to take senior status, a semi-retirement for long-serving judges over 65 who agree to hear fewer cases. In the letter to President Joe Biden announcing his senior position, Hurd says he “looks forward to providing substantial judicial service as a senior judge.”

On July 13, Biden nominated Assistant Attorney General Jorge Alberto Rodriguez, who has served in the Office of the Attorney General of New York since 2014, to succeed Hurd. Rodriguez would become the first Latino judge to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

But on July 14, Hurd wrote a letter to President Biden stating, “I immediately rescind my decision to take senior status.” He states in his letter that he will remain a full-time active judge until he retires, dies, or until someone is found who meets his demands. He elaborates on his decision by saying, “I will take senior status if a confirmed successor lives in this area and is permanently assigned to the United States Courthouse in Utica, New York.” According to the letter, Hurd seemed to have taken issue with the nomination of Rodriguez because he is based in Albany, not in Utica, where Hurd’s judicial chamber is located.

“Hurd’s pretextual demands about where Mr. Rodriguez resides are baffling and inappropriate,” Andrea Nill Sanchez, executive director of Latinos for a Fair Judiciary, said in a statement blasting Hurd’s decision to exploit his tenure to block the appointment of a highly qualified Latino judge. “We call on Judge Hurd to stop holding Mr. Rodriguez’s nomination hostage and make way for a new generation of jurists,” Sanchez continued.

According to a White House news release, Rodriguez’s nomination was essential to fulfill the Biden administration’s promise to the American people. The commitment “to ensure that the nation’s court reflects the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country — both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds.”

Latino civil groups argue that Rodriguez embodies these values since he’s involved in the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association and promotes racial and ethnic diversity. “His dedication to the people of New York has been demonstrated in his nearly two decades in private practice and public service,” they said.

NBC News