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Juan R. Torruella (1974-1984)

Juan R. Torruella

Juan R. Torruella (1974-1984)

Judge Juan R. Torruella, was born in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico on June 7, 1933. On August 11, 1955, he married Judith Wirt, a native of Duxbury, Massachusetts. They have four children.

He attended grade school at Saint Johns School in San Juan, and high school at the Admiral Farragut Academy in New Jersey. Thereafter, Judge Torruella studied at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and Finance obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in 1954, majoring in Economics and Insurance. Upon graduation, he attended Boston University Law School where he received an LL.B degree, graduating in 1957. In 1984, he received a Masters Degree (Ll.M.) from the University of Virginia School of Law, and also a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Administration. In 2003 he studied Modern European History at Magdalen College, Oxford University, obtaining a Masters Degree (M. St.). He has been a Lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, and at its Graduate School of Public Administration.

After graduating from law school, Judge Torruella served as a law clerk to the Hon. Pedro Pérez-Pimentel, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, from 1957-1958. Thereafter, from 1958-1960, he was an attorney at the National Labor Relations Board, 24th Region, after which he commenced the private practice of law. From 1960-1963 he was an associate at the Fiddler, González & Rodríguez law firm, where he was a partner from 1963-1967. Judge Torruella was a sole practitioner from 1967-1969, and, from 1969 to 1974 he established a law partnership with Jaime Pieras, Jr., who eventually also became a United States District Judge.

Judge Torruella has been a member of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar Association, the Puerto Rico Bar Association, and the Maritime Law Association of the United States; he also is an Academician of the Academia Puertorriqueña de Jurisprudencia y Legislación, and a member of the Conseil International de l'Arbitrage en matière de Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On November 18, 1974, Judge Torruella was nominated to the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico by President Gerald Ford, receiving his commission on December 20, 1974. He served as chief judge for that Court from 1982-1984. During his years as a district judge, the court grew from a three-judge court to the present-day composition of seven district judges. On October 30, 1984, Judge Torruella was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. He thus became the first Puerto Rican to sit on a U.S. Court of Appeals. Thereafter, Judge Torruella served as Chief Judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals from 1994-2001, replacing Chief Judge Stephen Breyer when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. During Judge Torruella's tenure as Chief Judge, the José V. Toledo U.S. Courthouse in Old San Juan, housing the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Bankruptcy Court, and senior district judges, was restored, as well as the Luis A. Ferré U.S. Courthouse in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

While on the district court bench in Puerto Rico, his rulings included the 1976 Case of La Princesa jail, Martínez Rodríguez v. Jiménez, 409 F. Supp. 582 (D.P.R. 1976), aff'd, 551 F.2d 877 (1st Cir. 1977), resulting in the closing of that facility; the 1978 Vieques case, Barceló v. Brown, 478 F. Supp. 646 (D.P.R. 1979), aff'd in part and vacated, Romero-Barceló v. Brown, 643 F.2d 835 (1st Cir. 1981), rev'd, Weinberger v. Romero-Barceló, 456 U.S. 305 (1982); the 1980 case of the Haitian refugees in Fort Allen, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Muskie, 507 F. Supp. 1035 (D.P.R. 1981), vacated, Marquez-Colón v. Reagan, 668 F.2d 611 (1st Cir. 1981); and the SS Zoe Colocotroni case, Puerto Rico v. SS Zoe Colocotroni, 456 F. Supp. 1327 (D.P.R. 1978), aff'd in part and vacated in part, 628 F.2d 652 (1st Cir. 1980), which is the leading environmental law case protecting the public heritage of Puerto Rico. As a Circuit Judge, he has ruled on many issues that have been the subject of broad and interesting discussion, including social issues, and those concerning Puerto Rico rights. Judge Torruella signed and published 120 opinions while on the District Court and 1,238 majority and 105 dissenting opinions while on the Court of Appeals, up to February 2009. He is still an active judge, and sits on both the District Court and the Court of Appeals.

He has been a member of several committees and activities of the United States Judicial Conference, including the Executive Committee, the Committee of International Judicial Relations, the Committee for the Administration of the Federal Magistrate System, and by designation of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, was the United States Delegate to the Conference of Chief Justices of the Americas in Santiago de Chile in 2004, Washington, DC in 2005, and Panama, in 2005. Also, by designation of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Judge Torruella organized the Organization of Supreme Courts of the Americas in 2005. He has been a lecturer at various legal and judicial conferences in Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, Panama, Venezuela, Mexico, Portugal, Uzbekistan and Spain.

Judge Torruella has been the recipient of various honors and awards. Boston University Law School awarded him its Silver Shingle Award in 1982, and its Alumni Award in 1995. In 1992, he received the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Americas Medal. In 1995, Judge Torruella received an Honorary Doctor of Laws (Ll. D.) degree from St. John's University. In 1998, the International Olympic Committee honored Judge Torruella with the Committee's highest recognition, the Olympic Order. That same year, he received a second Honorary Doctor of Laws (Ll. D.) degree from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

Judge Torruella has published numerous articles on current events and various scholarly articles and books. His 1985 book, The Supreme Court and Puerto Rico: The Doctrine of Separate and Unequal, presented an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the United States Supreme Court decisions related to the Insular Cases, analyzing their profound political, economic, social and cultural consequences on Puerto Rico and its people. Among the articles he has authored are: One Judge's Attempt at a Rational Discussion of the So-Called War on Drugs, 6 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 1 (1996), which has been reprinted in other law journals. In this article Judge Torruella posits the effectiveness of the war on drugs policy. He promoted a rational discussion of the problem, rather than a criminal one. Other articles include one he co-authored with Hon. Michael H. Mihm, entitled To Promote and Strengthen Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law in the Hemisphere, 40 St. Louis U. L.J. 969 (1996); A Dissenting Concurrence: An Opinion About the Bicentennial, Federal Bar Journal, Oct. (1987); On Judicial Independence, Federal Bar Journal, Dec. (1997); ¿Hacia donde vas Puerto Rico?, 107 Yale L. J. 1503 (1998) (a review of José Trías Monge's book, The Trials of the Oldest Colony in the World (1997)); 100 Years of Solitude: Puerto Rico's American Century, contained in Foreign in a Domestic Sense, (Christina Duffy Burnett, ed., 2001); and On the Slippery Slopes of Afghanistan: Military Commissions and the Exercise of Presidential Power, in 4 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 648 (2002), and 71 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 667 (2002); La Rama Judicial Ante los Retos del Siglo 21, 40 Rev. Jur. U. Inter. P.R. 411 (2006); A Clash of Legal Cultures, The Bulletin, American Academy of Trial Lawyers, No. 24, 4-13 (Summer 2006); What Will Determine the Role of the Judiciary in the Twenty-First Century?, 86 B.U. L. Rev. 1461 (2006). In 2007, he published The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 29 U. Pa. J. Int'l L. 283 (2007) and 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008). His latest book, published in 2008, was Global Intrigues: the Era of the Spanish-American War and the Rise of the United States to World Power, and is based on his studies at Oxford.

In his private life, Judge Torruella is an avid sailor, having represented Puerto Rico in yacht racing in the 1966 and 1974 Central American and Caribbean Games, winning a silver medal in each, and in the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, 1968 in Mexico, 1972 in Munich and in 1976 in Montreal. In the 1984 games in Los Angeles, he was the team's coach. As owner and captain of the sailing yacht Danza, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the Gran Regata Colón, sailing from Puerto Rico to Spain and back in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the European Discovery of America. In 1994, he sailed Danza to the Canadian sub-arctic regions, circumnavigating Newfoundland in the process. In 1996, he and a young crew circumnavigated South America, navigating approximately 19,000 miles, through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean, sailing South, rounding Cape Horn in Chile, and eventually turning North to return to Puerto Rico. During these trips, his wife Judy was his constant companion and part of the crew.