Judge Rudy Ruiz – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Rudy Ruiz, a state court judge in South Florida joined the bench at just 33 years old. Today, at age 39, he has been nominated to the federal bench.

Background

Rodolfo Armando Ruiz II was born in Miami in 1979.  Ruiz graduated from Duke University in 2002 and then from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2005.[1]

After graduation, Ruiz clerked for Judge Federico Moreno on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and then joined the Miami Office of White & Case as an Associate.[2]  In 2009, he moved to the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office.[3]

In 2012, Ruiz became a County Court Judge, appointed to the position by Republican Governor Rick Scott.  In 2015, Ruiz was appointed by Scott to be a Circuit Court Judge on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, where he sits to this day.

History of the Seat

Ruiz has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  This seat opened on January 31, 2017, when Judge William Zloch moved to senior status.  In October 2017, Ruiz applied and interviewed with the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) formed by Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.  The JNC chose Ruiz as one of ten finalists to be passed onto the Senators.[4]  After interviews with Rubio and Nelson, Ruiz was contacted by the Trump Administration in February 2018.[5]  After interviewing with the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice, Ruiz was formally nominated on May 8, 2018.

Legal Career

Ruiz began his legal career as a law clerk on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  After he left that position, Ruiz joined the Miami office of White & Case, working in the Corporate Latin America transactional practice group.[6]  While his work at the firm was primarily transactional, his next position at the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office focused on litigation.

As an Assistant County Attorney, Ruiz worked in the Tax & Finance, Torts, & Federal Litigation sections, handling tax, defense of tort claims, and civil rights cases respectively.  During his time at the office, Ruiz tried two cases in Florida state court as associate counsel, while trying six other cases as lead counsel before administrative agencies.[7]

Ruiz’s most prominent cases involved the defense of civil rights claims brought against Miami-Dade County.[8]  In one of the cases, which went to trial, the jury found for the plaintiff, but Ruiz successfully petitioned for a new trial, and defended the grant on appeal.[9]

Jurisprudence

Ruiz served as a County Court Judge in Florida from 2012 to 2015 and has served as a Circuit Judge since 2015.  In the former capacity, Ruiz heard criminal misdemeanor and traffic matters, civil protective orders, and landlord-tenant and small claims litigation.[10]  As a Circuit Judge, Ruiz handles major felonies and any civil cases with more than $15000 in controversy.  Over his six year tenure on state court, Ruiz has heard approximately 300 cases.

Among his more notable decisions, Ruiz vacated a jury award for a plaintiff who had slipped and fallen in the lobby of the defendant’s building,[11] denied a criminal defendant immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law after he had stabbed his colleague,[12] and presided over a plaintiff’s vicarious liability victory in a case where the decedent was electrocuted by a hydraulic conveyor belt boom.[13]

During his tenure as a Circuit Judge, only one case has been overruled by a higher court, a relatively low reversal rate.

Writings

As a law student, Ruiz co-authored an article laying out the law governing Securities Fraud.[14]  The article breaks down the offenses that fall under the Securities Fraud umbrella, including Fraud and Insider Trading, as well as describing common defenses and enforcement mechanisms.[15]

Overall Assessment

While the 39-year-old Ruiz is on the younger end of judicial nominees put forward by the Administration, it is unlikely that Ruiz will attract too much opposition through the confirmation process.  First, Ruiz lacks a paper trail on controversial issues, having avoided op-eds and political activism.  Second, his record on the bench is relatively mainstream, with a low reversal rate.  Third, Ruiz is one of Trump’s few Hispanic nominees, and has a record of supporting minority lawyers, including membership in the Cuban American Bar Association and the Florida Muslim Bar Association.[16]

Furthermore,despite his youth, Ruiz narrowly meets the ABA cutoff of twelve years of legal experience to take the federal bench.  As such, Democrats are likely to keep their powder dry and focus their fire on other nominees.

 


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Rodolfo Ruiz: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] David Markus, Breaking — JNC Makes the Cut to 10 Finalists for District Judge, Southern District of Florida Blog, Nov. 29, 2017, http://sdfla.blogspot.com/2017/11/breaking-jnc-makes-cut-to-10-finalists.html.

[5] See Ruiz, supra n. 1 at 40.

[6] Id. at 41.

[7] Id. at 43.

[8] See Rolle v. Miami-Dade Cnty., Case No. 02-219101 CA 01 (25) (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct.), aff’d, 138 So. 3d 457 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014) (per curiam); Isaac v. Miami-Dade Cnty., Case No. 11-22698-CIV-PAS (S.D. Fla. 2011).

[9] See Rolle, supra n. 8.

[10] See Ruiz, supra n. 1 at 17.

[11] Gavers v. Espacio Miami Prop., LLC, Case No. 14-10879 CA 01 (22), 2017 WL 3047581 (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. June 8, 2017).

[12] State v. Quintana, Case No. F12-23033 (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. Mar. 2, 2016).

[13] Aldana v. Miami Tile Deliveries Corp., Case No. 15-6122 CA 01 (22) (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct.).

[14] XueMing Jimmy Cheng, Ryan Harrington and Rodolfo Ruiz II, Securities Fraud, 41 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 1079 (2004).

[15] See id.

[16] See Ruiz, supra n. 1 at 5-6.

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