Judge Raul Arias-Marxuach – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

While President Trump has had a significant impact on most of the federal courts of appeals, he has yet to appoint any judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which has remained moderately liberal under the influence of three appointees of President Obama and the pioneering Judge Juan Torruella.  However, Judge Torruella’s untimely death in October may give President Trump a chance to place his stamp on the court.

Background

Raul Manuel Arias-Marxuach was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1967.  Arias-Marxuach received his B.S. cum laude from Boston College in 1989 and his J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1992.[1]  After graduating, Arias-Marxuach clerked on the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and then received an LLM from Harvard Law School.

After receiving his LLM, Arias-Marxuach joined the San Juan firm Fiddler Gonzalez & Rodriguez P.S.C. as a Litigation Associate.[2]  In 1995, Arias-Marxuach moved to McConnell Valdes LLC.  Arias-Marxuach became an Income Partner at the firm in 1999 and a Capital Partner in 2003.[3] 

In March 2017, Arias-Marxuach was contacted by the White House after being recommended for a federal judgeship by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.[4]  Arias-Marxuach was selected as the primary candidate for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in April 2017, but was not officially nominated for the next year, until April 10, 2018.  The Senate confirmed Arias-Marxuach by a 95-3 vote on May 2, 2019, and he has served as a federal judge since.

History of the Seat

Arias-Marxuach has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  This seat opened with the death of Judge Juan Torruella, a pioneering judge who was the first from Puerto Rico to sit on the First Circuit, on October 26, 2020.

Political Activity

Arias-Marxuach has limited political experience, having worked as a volunteer attorney for the campaign of Governor Luis Fortuno in 2008 (Fortuno caucused with the GOP as a resident commissioner in Washington).[5]  He also served as a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.[6] 

Legal Experience

Arias-Marxuach has spent almost his entire legal pre-judicial career at the same firm, working in a variety of subject areas including maritime law, product liability, and antitrust matters.[7]  During his career, Arias-Marxuach has tried three cases to verdict before the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.[8] 

Among the most notable cases he handled, Arias-Marxuach represented the University of Puerto Rico in seeking legal remedies against 21 student “strikers” who sought to maintain collective action against the University.[9]  The case went all the way to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which found that students at the University do not have the right to strike.[10]

Judicial Experience

Arias-Marxuach has served as a federal district judge for a year and a half.  During this time, he has authored only one published opinion, granting the plaintiff’s motion to remand a gross negligence action to the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance.[11]

Among other matters over which he has presided, Arias-Marxuach reviewed the plea of Trevor Leslie Doyle, a radio host convicted of trying to solicit sex from a minor.[12]  He also presided over a civil suit against the Municipality of Guynabo, alleging that the former mayor’s son, Hector O’Neill Rosa, engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment.[13]

Overall Assessment

Judge Arias-Marxuach’s confirmation to the federal bench, while slow (taking more than 2 years from recommendation to confirmation) was widely bipartisan.  His record on the bench itself is also uncontroversial.  However, no President since Jimmy Carter has seen lame-duck confirmations to the court of appeals, and it is unclear whether the eight weeks remaining until the new Administration is enough time to process Judge Arias-Marxuach’s nomination.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Raul Arias-Marxuach: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] NotiCel, New Federal Judge Candidate in PR Closely Linked to UPR Strike, NotiCel, June 12, 2017, http://www.noticel.com/ahora/new-federal-judge-candidate-in-pr-closely-linked-to-upr-strike-document/609378099.

[5] See id. at 8.

[6] See id. at 4.

[7] See id. at 1.

[8] See id. at 18.

[9] NotiCel, New Federal Judge Candidate in PR Closely Linked to UPR Strike, NotiCel, June 12, 2017, http://www.noticel.com/ahora/new-federal-judge-candidate-in-pr-closely-linked-to-upr-strike-document/609378099.

[10] See Univ. of Puerto Rico v. Labarde Torres, 180 D.P.R. 253 (P.R. 2010).

[11] See Carrillo v. Marina Puerto Del Ray Operations, LLC., 432 F. Supp. 3d 7 (D.P.R. 2019).

[12] See Radio Host Reaches Plea Agreement, Court Docs Say, The Telegraph-Journal, Jan. 11, 2020.

[13] See Judge Reserves the Ruling on Dismissal, CE Noticias Financieras English, Oct. 29, 2019.

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