Washington D. C.- After President Joe Biden withdrew the nomination of Judge Raúl Arias Marxuach, Donald Trump’s candidate, San Juan U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gustavo Gelpí appears as a strong candidate to fill the vacancy left by Judge Juan Torruella in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
”He would be the right person. He is a Democrat, liberal, and an excellent judge,” said analyst and former federal prosecutor Ignacio Rivera.
Attorney and commentator Leo Aldridge agreed that Gelpí “would be the natural and logical selection,” as has been rumored in the San Juan federal court.
Biden announced Thursday that he withdrew Arias Marxuach’s nomination to replace late Judge Juan Torruella. Trump had sent the nomination to the U.S. Senate on January 3.
Trump had nominated Arias Marxuach after the November 3 elections, infuriating Democrats who considered the nomination should be in Biden’s hands. In any case, the Senate Republican majority did not have time to complete the process.
For Rivera, said the vacancy in the Boston First Circuit Court of Appeals, should be filled by a Puerto Rican. “Puerto Rico represents almost half of the cases (before that court),” said Rivera.
Aldridge, meanwhile, noted that Gelpí, who was a former attorney general and federal public defender, “has seen hundreds of criminal and civil trials as a district judge”.
He has also been crucial in deciding cases challenging the federal public policy of inequality toward territories, such as Puerto Rico.
”His decisions challenging the inequality in the U.S. legal treatment of Puerto Rico should not worry Biden because the president is aligned with many of Gelpí's approaches, such as those related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” Aldridge added.
When opening the December 16, 2020 hearing to consider Arias Marxuach’s appointment to the First Circuit, Lindsey Graham (S.C.) then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee had already acknowledged that it would be in the hands of “the next administration” to fill the vacancy.
At the December hearing, Democrats on the Committee, now led by Richard Durbin (Illinois), questioned Arias Marxuach’s limited experience in criminal cases, who has only served as a judge for 21 months.
And Massachusetts Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey had criticized that the Trump White House had not consulted them.
The Boston First Circuit Court of Appeals reviews decisions by district courts in Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Considered a conservative judge, Arias Marxuach was also nominated by Trump as a federal district judge in San Juan, a position to which he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May 2019.
Torruella was the first Puerto Rican in the Boston Circuit Court of Appeals.
Four other Puerto Ricans have served as judges on federal appellate circuits: current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York; José A. Cabranes, in the Second Circuit; Julio Fuentes, Third Circuit, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Albert Díaz in Richmond Fourth Circuit, in Virginia.