Groups call on judge to clear way for first Latino on upstate New York court

an empty courtroom

A coalition of Latino advocacy groups on Monday called on an upstate New York federal district judge to move forward with his recently rescinded plans to retire, after President Biden nominated New York Assistant Attorney General Jorge Alberto Rodriguez for the post.

U.S. District Judge David Hurd had announced his retirement from active duty in November, seeking to take “senior status” pending confirmation of a successor.

Biden nominated Rodriguez on July 13, and Hurd rescinded his retirement announcement on July 14, saying he expected his successor to live in the area around Utica, N.Y., and “is permanently assigned to the courthouse” in that city.

Rodriguez is based in Albany and his nomination is still pending in the Senate.

Hurd’s 180 drew ire from Hispanic advocates, who saw Rodriguez’s nomination as an opportunity to advance diversity in the judiciary.

“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. [Northern District of New York] court,” a grouping of Hispanic community leaders wrote in a letter to Hurd.

“You made the wise decision earlier this year to take senior status and make way for a new generation of jurists,” the advocates added.

“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.”

Both the White House and officials in Hurd’s chambers declined to comment on this story.

The letter’s co-signers were Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino; Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF; Art Motta, national director of policy and legislation at the League of United Latin American Citizens; Andrea Nill Sanchez, director of Latinos for a Fair Judiciary; Lourdes Rosado, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF; and Héctor Sánchez Barba, CEO and executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

The group includes advocates with influence in both legal affairs and electoral politics within the Hispanic community.

In their letter, the advocates touted Rodriguez’s record particularly in diversifying the legal profession in upstate New York localities that form part of the Northern District of New York.

They added that Rodriguez’s background as an immigrant from Colombia would serve to represent the shifting population of Utica.

“Although the majority of New York’s Latino population lives downstate and in New York City, Latino communities are a significant part of the demographic makeup of northern New York as well. In your hometown of Utica alone, over 12 percent of the population now identifies as Hispanic,” they wrote.

“Refugees and their families make up about a quarter of Utica’s population of about 60,000. Utica’s immigrant population exceeds over 20 percent of the city’s overall population,” they added.

Still, the advocates wrote that Hurd’s reasoning that he wanted a Utica-based judge to replace him “was simply a pretext.”

“We hope that you will reconsider your decision to maintain your full caseload and thwart Mr. Rodriguez’s appointment — if not for the sake of N.D.N.Y. and the people you serve, then at least for the benefit of your own reputation and integrity,” they wrote.

Tags Albany Andrea Nill Sanchez Art Motta Biden Colombia David Hurd Héctor Sánchez Barba Joe Biden Jose Alberto Rodriguez LatinoJustice PRLDEF Latinos for a Fair Judiciary League of United Latin American Citizens Lourdes Rosado MALDEF Maria Teresa Kumar Mi Familia Vota New York Senate Thomas Saenz Utica Voto Latino
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