Outrage as Judge in Upstate New York denies Latino judge from history
Judge Hurd reversed his decision to step down upon finding out his replacement would be the first Latino to serve in his Northern District of New York.
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In a joint letter from Latino groups across the country — Latinos for a Fair Judiciary (LFJ), LatinoJustice, Voto Latino, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), MALDEF and Mi Familia Vota — issued to Judge David Hurd on Monday, Aug. 16, the organizations urged the 85-year old to not block President Joe Biden’s nomination for Hurd’s replacement, Attorney General Jorge Alberto Rodriguez.
Rodriguez would be the first Latino federal judge to serve in the Northern District of New York if appointed. Since 1789, out of over 3,400 federal judges, only 151 have been of Latino. He has served in the Office of the Attorney General of New York since 2014. Rodriguez received his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 2004, and worked as an associate for two different law firms in New York City and Albany between 2005 and 2014.
The appointment was part of Biden’s bigger plan and promise to diversify the nation's courts to reflect the diversity of the country. During his time in office, specifically his first year, according to a report from the Brookings Institute, he’s appointed many women and men of color to the bench. Out of the 41 people appointed, 78% were women, 29% were Black, 17% were Asian, 15% Hispanic, and 2% Native American.
“We urge you to reconsider your decision to effectively block the appointment of Mr. Rodriguez —a highly qualified judicial candidate who would also make history as the first Latino judge to sit on an N.D.N.Y. court,” the letter read.
In a letter sent to Biden on Nov. 1, 2021, Judge Hurd announced his plans to take on senior status. Senior status is for federal judges over the age of 65 in which they will take on less cases. It is a semi-retirement for long standing judges. Hurd said he would step down upon the confirmation of his successor.
"I look forward to providing substantial judicial service as a senior judge,” Hurd wrote in the letter to Biden.
However, when Biden revealed his replacement would be Rodriguez, Hurd sent the president another letter the day after, reversing his initial decision. In what has transformed into a race-fueled decision, the Clinton-appointed judge has cited other reasons for why he rescinded his decision. In the letter to the president the day after the announcement Hurd said,
“Please be advised that I immediately rescind my decision to take senior status as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York. A successor has not been confirmed. 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. Otherwise, I shall remain on full-time active status until I retire or die,” wrote Hurd.
This prompted an almost immediate response from Latino organizations across the country coming out in support of Rodriguez. In the long letter to Judge Hurd, the organizations gave three prompt reasons as to why Hurd should reconsider his decision to block the appointment. They first listed his qualifications. Second, they explained the much-needed diversity in federal courts. Last, they accused Hurd of using his lifetime tenure as leverage to decide his successor.
“You made the wise decision earlier this year to take senior status and make way for a new generation of jurists. It is unclear what changed between now and then other than President Biden’s decision to nominate the first-ever Latino who would serve on the N.D.N.Y. bench. Your inexplicable about-face raises troubling questions and threatens the legacy you have spent decades of honorable service building,” the organizations’ letter to Hurd read.
Maria Teresa Kumar, President Voto Latino, Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF, Art Motta, National Director of Policy and Legislation, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Andrea Nill Sanchez, Director of Latinos for a Fair Judiciary, Lourdes Rosado, President & General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Héctor Sánchez Barba, CEO and Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota, all signed off on the letter.
Hurd has not responded to phone calls or emails for comment.
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