Judge Camille Velez-Rive – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Judge Camille Velez-Rive has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for nearly two decades. As such, she can be considered a fairly uncontroversial selection for a federal judgeship.

Background

A Puerto Rico native, Camille Lizette Velez-Rive was born in San Juan on February 5, 1968. Velez-Rive received her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1989 and her J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1993. After graduating, Velez-Rive clerked for Judge Francisco Rebollo Lopez of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. She then joined Pietrantoni Mendez & Alvarez in San Juan as an Associate. In 1998, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. She held that position until her appointment as a federal magistrate judge in 2004.

History of the Seat

Velez-Rive has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. This seat opened when Judge Francisco Besosa moved to senior status on January 1, 2022.

Legal Experience

Velez-Rive started her legal career as a law clerk and then spent three years as an Associate in private practice. She then spent four years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, handling a wide variety of cases.

Notably, Velez-Rive handled a number of appellate matters before the First Circuit, defending the validity of convictions below. See, e.g., United States v. Hernandez-Albino, 177 F.3d 33 (1st Cir. 1999) (affirming conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine); United States v. Rivera, 171 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 1999) (affirming denial of motion for new trial); United States v. Morillo, 158 F.3d 18 (1st Cir. 1998) (reversing conviction for conspiracy for insufficiency of evidence); United States v. Hernandez, 146 F.3d 30 (1st Cir. 1998) (challenging sufficiency of evidence for conviction for felon in possession). She also helped brief challenges to suppression motions on appeals from the district court. See, e.g., United States v. Acosta-Colon, 157 F.3d 9 (1st Cir. 1998).

Velez-Rive later transitioned into handling civil cases, defending the federal government against claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). See, e.g., De Mangual v. United States, 131 F. Supp. 2d 263 (D.P.R. 2001). Notably, she successfully defended the federal government in a bench trial in a suit brought by a plaintiff who was injured by tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Sepulveda v. United States, 329 F. Supp. 2d 260 (D.P.R. 2004). She also, in that role, defended social security decisions. See, e.g., Cruz v. Barnhart, 265 F. Supp. 2d 173 (D.P.R. 2003); Chaparro v. Massanari, 190 F. Supp. 2d 260 (D.P.R. 2002).

Jurisprudence

Since 2004, Velez-Rive has served as a full-time U.S. Magistrate Judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. As a magistrate judge, Velez-Rive wrote reports and recommendations for substantive rulings, handled pleas and arraignments, and reviewed warrant applications.

Among the most notable cases in which she issued recommendations, Velez-Rive’s recommendation to dismiss a political discrimination case against the Mayor of San German was adopted as time-barred. See Llantin-Ballester v. Negron-Irizarry, 353 F. Supp. 2d 206 (D.P.R. 2005). By contrast, Velez-Rive denied motions to dismiss in another political discrimination case, finding that the case should move forward. Torres-Heredia v. Lopez-Pena, 708 F. Supp. 2d 148 (D.P.R. 2008).

On the criminal side, Velez-Rive recommended that a defendant’s motion for a Franks hearing should be denied for failure to offer sufficient factual support. See United States v. Perez Velasquez, 488 F. Supp. 2d 82 (D.P.R. 2006). In another case, Judge Aida Delgado-Colon concurred with Velez-Rive’s recommendation to deny a motion to suppress, finding that the defendant had been validly stopped based on reasonable suspicion. See United States v. Garcia-Robledo, 488 F. Supp. 2d 50 (D.P.R. 2007).

Velez-Rive’s rulings have generally been upheld on appeal. For example, the First Circuit upheld her grant of judgment on the pleadings to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in a constitutional claim involving a farmer’s tax credit program. See Perez-Acevedo v. Rivero-Cubano, 520 F.3d 26 (1st Cir. 2008).

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts. Judge Velez-Rive’s nomination is unlikely to be any different. Given her extensive experience as a federal magistrate judge, she will likely get bipartisan support.

Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Unlike magistrate and bankruptcy judges, who are frequently considered for lifetime appointments to the federal bench, it is relatively uncommon for court clerks to be appointed to the bench. As such, the nomination of Maria Antongiorgi-Jordan is a rarity: a chance for her to replace the Chief Judge she worked closely with.

Background

Maria del R. Antongiorgi-Jordan received her B.A. from Seton Hall University in 1989 and her J.D. from the Intramerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1992. After graduating, Antongiorgi-Jordan earned an M. Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center and then joined McConnell Valde in San Juan.

In 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan became Chief Deputy Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, becoming Chief Clerk in 2019. She currently serves in that role.

History of the Seat

Antongiorgi-Jordan has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. This seat opened when Judge Gustavo Gelpi was elevated to the First Circuit on October 19, 2021.

Legal Experience

Antongiorgi-Jordan has spent the vast majority of her legal career, between 1995 and 2018, at McConnell Valde in San Juan. At the firm, she primarily engaged in employment litigation. For example, Antongiorgi-Jordan represented Bristol Myers Squibb in defending against a discrimination action brought by a former employee. See Dilcia Ocasio Berrios v. Bristol Myers Squibb, 73 F. Supp. 2d 171 (D.P.R. 1999). Her work has also included appellate litigation before the First Circuit, including defending a grant of summary judgment in favor of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in a military service discrimination case. Vega-Colon v. Wyeth Pharms., 625 F.3d 22 (1st Cir. 2010).

Since 2018, Antongiorgi-Jordan has served with the clerk’s office for the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. In this role, she worked with then Chief Judge Gelpi on the District’s plan to adjust its operations to the Covid-19 pandemic. See Federal Court Ready For Face-to-Face Cases, CE Noticias Financerias English, Mar. 12, 2021.

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts. Antongiorgi-Jordan’s nomination is unlikely to be too different. While her background as a clerk is unusual for a judicial nominee, Antongiorgi-Jordan also brings extensive litigation experience on both the trial and appellate levels to the bench, and will likely be able to hit the ground running as a federal judge.

Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll has extensive experience with litigation and with case management, as she currently serves as a U.S. Magistrate Judge.  As such, she can be considered a fairly uncontroversial selection for a federal judgeship.

Background

Silvia Luisa Carreno-Coll was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in 1963.  Carreno-Coll received her B.A. cum laude from Emerson College in 1983 and her J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1986.[1]  After graduating, Carreno-Coll joined the Federal Litigation Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Justice.  In 1989, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.[2]

In 1995, Carreno-Coll became Associate Regional Counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency in San Juan.[3]  She held that position until her appointment as a federal magistrate judge in 2011.[4]

History of the Seat

Carreno-Coll has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  This seat opened when Judge Jay Garcia-Gregory moved to senior status on September 30, 2018.  

In August 2018, Carreno-Coll was contacted by Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[5]  Carreno-Coll was selected as the primary candidate for the vacancy after interviews with the White House in June and July of 2019.

Legal Experience

Carreno-Coll has spent her entire career in the public sector, starting with her work with the Attorney General’s Office, where she defended police departments in 1983 and civil rights suits.  Similarly, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she was responsible for defending federal officers against Bivens suits alleging violations of constitutional rights.  However, Carreno-Coll also brought affirmative civil actions seeking to remove houseboats that were obstructing movement in navigable waters.[6] 

From 1995 to 2011, Carreno-Coll worked for the EPA seeking to remedy violations of environmental laws.  For example, Carreno-Coll prosecuted Braulio Agosto Motors, Inc. for intentionally discharging raw sewage into the Espiritu Santo River.[7]

Jurisprudence

Since 2011, Carreno-Coll has served as a full-time U.S. Magistrate Judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  During his career, Carreno-Coll has presided over 15 cases that have proceeded to verdict or judgment.[8] 

Among the most notable cases he handled, Carreno-Coll presided over the jury trial arising from a car crash, which resulted in a $6 million jury verdict for the plaintiff.[9]  She also presided over an action in diversity arising from damages from a dog bite, which also ended in a verdict for the plaintiff.[10]

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts.  Judge Carreno-Coll’s nomination is unlikely to be any different.  Given her extensive experience, she will likely get bipartisan support.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Silvia Carreno-Coll: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 36.

[6] United States v. Members of the State of Luis Boothby, 16 F.3d 19 (1st Cir. 1994).

[7] See United States v. Braulio Agosto, et al., 617 F.3d 541 (1st Cir. 2010).

[8] See Carreno-Coll, supra n. 1 at 11.

[9] See Quiles-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc., 823 F.3d 712 (1st Cir. 2016).

[10] See Correa-Zayas v. Miranda Menchaca, et al., No. CV-15-1585 (D.P.R.).

Raul Arias-Marxuach – Nominee for the District of Puerto Rico

President Trump has received some criticism for the lack of diversity in his judicial candidates.  As of June 18, 2018, out of the 125 nominations made to the Article III courts, just four have been Hispanic.  One of those four is Raul Arias-Marxuach, who joins a federal bench composed entirely of Hispanic judges, serving a population where 95% of citizens speak Spanish as their first language.

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]  He continues to practice at the firm.[4]

History of the Seat

Arias-Marxuach has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  This seat opened when Judge Jose Fuste moved to senior status on June 1, 2016.  No nomination was made to this seat during the Obama Administration.

In March 2017, Arias-Marxuach was contacted by the White House after being recommended for a judgeship by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.[5]  Arias-Marxuach was selected as the primary candidate for the vacancy in April 2017, but was not officially nominated for the next year, until April 10, 2018.

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).[6]  He also served as a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association in 2003.[7]

Legal Experience

Arias-Marxuach has spent almost his entire legal career at McConnell Valdes LLC,  working in a variety of subject areas including maritime law, product liability, and antitrust matters.[8]  During his career, Arias-Marxuach has tried three cases to verdict before the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.[9]

Among the most notable cases he handled, Arias-Marxuach represented the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in seeking legal remedies against 21 student “strikers” who sought to maintain collective action against the University.[10]  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.[11]

Overall Assessment

When nominated, Commissioner Gonzalez described Arias-Marxuach as “very professional…conservative, and his character is impeccable.”[12]  A review of his record mostly confirms her assessment.  Arias-Marxuach brings a long record with complex civil litigation to the bench, along with a generally non-controversial background.  While Arias-Marxuach may draw some questions based on his role in ending the UPR student strike, Democrats are unlikely to target his nomination, focusing on more conservative targets.


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

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] 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.

[6] See id. at 8.

[7] See id. at 4.

[8] See id. at 1.

[9] See id. at 18.

[10] 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.

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

[12] See Noticel, Supra n. 10.