Clemente Ruiz Nazario (1952-1966)

Clemente Ruiz Nazario  (1952-1966)Judge Clemente Ruiz Nazario, the son of Antonio Ruiz and Eulalia Nazario, was born in San Germán, Puerto Rico, on November 23, 1896. He married Amelia Rivera on August 2, 1922, with whom he had four children, Nilda, Jorge, Amelia, and Clemente.  Doña Amelia died on July 1, 1950. Three years later, on October 3, 1953, Judge Ruiz married his second wife, Josefina Maldonado.

Don Clemente, as he was respectfully and affectionately known, studied his primary grades in the public schools of San Germán, and obtained a Graded Teachers Normal Certificate from the University of Puerto Rico in 1915. He then became a teacher in the public schools in San Germán. In 1921, he obtained his law degree, also from the University of Puerto Rico. On December 21, 1921 he was admitted to the practice of law by the Supreme Court of Porto Rico, and to the bar of this United States District Court on May 6, 1922.

He was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve during 1921.

From the date he was admitted to the bar until 1952 he was in the private practice of law. He began his private practice in the law office of Juan de Guzmán Benítez, and practiced with the Brown & Newsom law firm from 1922 to 1935, before working as a sole practitioner from 1936 until 1952. While in private practice, however, Don Clemente found time to be active in the Puerto Rico and federal bars, and to hold important public posts and memberships in many important and prestigious boards. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Puerto Rico and its School of Tropical Medicine from 1930-1936; he was the Assistant General Counsel of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration in 1936; he served as an Acting Judge of the San Juan District Court from October to November, 1945; he was a member of Puerto Rico Board of Bar Examiners for seven separate terms from 1928 to 1944; he was a member of the Board of Examiners for Property Registrars in 1946; and he was President of the Boy Scouts of America for the New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico Region.

Judge Ruiz Nazario was also a member of the Puerto Rico Arts and Sciences Academy, and was very involved in the anti-tuberculosis campaigns in Puerto Rico at a time when tuberculosis was Public Enemy Number 1 on the Island.

He was on the short list to become an Associate Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in 1943, when Chief Justice Emilio del Toro Cuebas resigned. When Associate Justice Benjamín Ortiz resigned in 1954, it was rumored that Judge Ruiz Nazario was being considered for the position by Governor Luis Muñoz Marín, even though he was already on the federal bench.

President Harry S. Truman nominated Judge Ruiz Nazario to be the first native-born Puerto Rican United States District Judge on January 28, 1952. Those were heady days in the political history of Puerto Rico. The Nationalist Revolt had occurred just two years before and just one month after Judge Ruiz Nazario's nomination, on March 6, 1952, the People of Puerto Rico had approved the new Commonwealth's Constitution in a referendum.

President Truman and Governor Muñoz Marín wanted to name to the federal bench a person with impeccable integrity, who was fair and just, who personified unquestionable prestige, and who enjoyed the respect of the legal community and of all persons across the island's political spectrum. Judge Ruiz Nazario fit the mold perfectly - he was a prestigious attorney, considered one of the most competent jurists on the Island, and kept his distance from the political fray. After the United States Senate's unanimous consent to his nomination, Judge Ruiz Nazario was appointed on March 15, 1952 and took office on March 28, 1952, a scant three months before the formal establishment of the Commonwealth.

Once on the federal bench, he was recognized as a man born to be a judge. An attorney who practiced before him put it this way, Don Clemente was far more than an excellent judge. He was a humanitarian, a good listener, an able lawyer, a man without prejudices. He was concerned with one's character, one's professional competence and devotion to the law. One newspaper editorialized that he was strong-faced, white-haired, and no-nonsense as an authoritative figure, and his courtroom reflected this image. Woe to the attorney who came to Court and was not prepared, or who did not exemplify the strict professional standards that Judge Ruiz Nazario demanded.

During his tenure, the number of cases filed in the federal court increased exponentially. Judge Ruiz Nazario managed and resolved them with no help until 1958, when judges from other districts began to come to Puerto Rico to help Judge Ruiz Nazario manage the heavy docket. It was not until 1965 that a second federal judge was appointed for Puerto Rico, four-years after Congress had created the second position in 1961.

Judge Ruiz Nazario never boasted about the cases he heard or decided. On the contrary, he said that he felt proud of the federal court primarily because a greater number of Puerto Rican colleagues began appearing before the Court, which demonstrated that those attorneys and the people of Puerto Rico understood that the United States District Court was but another court in Puerto Rico.

Don Clemente retired in December 1966. The imprint of his authority and integrity, his fairness and decorum, symbolized by the impressive bronze bust located in the courthouse lobby, remains, however, in the halls, courtrooms and chambers of this revered institution. He died on Christmas Day, 1969, at the age of 73.  In 1984, Congress designated the United States Courthouse in Hato Rey to be known as the Clemente Ruiz Nazario United States Courthouse in his honor.