José A. Cabranes

José A. Cabranes bigraphy, stories - American judge

José A. Cabranes : biography

December 22, 1940 –

José Alberto Cabranes (born December 22, 1940) is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Formerly a practicing lawyer, government official, and law teacher, he was the first Puerto Rican appointed to a federal judgeship in the continental United States (1979).


José Cabranes’s mother, Carmen López Cabranes, was born in Humacao, PR, in the southeastern part of the island, and graduated with a teaching degree from the University of Puerto Rico in 1930. After graduation, Mrs. Cabranes worked as a grammar school teacher, and for a period during the Second World War, as director of the San Juan school lunch program. In 1946, she moved with her family to the South Bronx, where her husband had been recruited by the National Council of Jewish Women to become the executive director of Melrose House, a settlement house that had historically served Jewish immigrants, but was then principally serving its neighborhood’s recently-arrived Puerto Rican population.

Mrs. Cabranes became an editor of Spanish-language publications for McGraw-Hill, and was the production editor of the journals of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

While living in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, Carmen Cabranes was involved in politics, participating in John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and Robert F. Kennedy’s 1964 senatorial campaign. She worked closed at her husband’s side in the cultural, civic and religious leadership of the Puerto Rican community in New York.Ibid.

The couple retired to Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1965, where Mrs. Cabranes was briefly the editor of the industrial guide of Puerto Rico’s Economic Development Administration. She was active in pro-statehood politics, participating exuberantly in mass rallies well into her 90s. She died in San Juan in 2006 at the age of 96.Ibid.

José A. Cabranes’s father, Manuel Cabranes, was born in Toa Alta, PR, a rural town in the hills of the island’s north-central region, and began his career as a rural school teacher in the countryside around Toa Alta. In time he became a teacher in the island’s capital city and principal of the Rafael M. de Labra School in Santurce, PR. In 1931, he and two other Puerto Rican teachers were selected for graduate training fellowships in the continental United States in the newly-developing professional field of social work, thereby becoming the first professionally trained social workers in Puerto Rico. Returning from graduate work at Fordham University in 1933, Manuel Cabranes served as a supervisor of social work in several of the reconstruction programs of the territorial government of the New Deal era (1934–1940), organizing and directing the territory’s first program of probation and parole (1934–1936) and later, in Mayaguez, serving as director of the Escuela Industrial Para Niños (Industrial School for Boys), one of the first “reform schools” on the island (1940–1942).

Manuel Cabranes was a founder of the probation and parole office of the island’s federal court, serving from 1942 to 1946 as Chief Probation Officer of the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico. He was serving in the federal court of Puerto Rico when he was recruited to become director of Melrose House in the South Bronx, part of the first airborne migration to New York City in the post-war era. José Cabranes and an older brother, Manuel A., studied at St. Anslem’s School in the South Bronx, and later, in the public schools of Flushing, Queens.

Manuel Cabranes in 1948 was appointed the first director of the office of the government of Puerto Rico in New York City by Gov. Jesús T. Piñero, and also served for several years under the island’s first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín.“Pinero Cites Gains by Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, July 23, 1948; “Honor Settlement House Head,” N.Y. Times, Feb. 11. 1948. As the principal Puerto Rican Government spokesman for the mass of Puerto Ricans who had recently migrated to New York, he was called upon to defend them when attacked by opponents of the migration, including major newspapers.“Aid Plan Outlined for Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, Sept. 15, 1949; “City Puerto Ricans: Complex Problem,” N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1949; “Puerto Ricans Here Said to be Exploited,” N.Y. Times, Feb. 20, 1950; “Unions Plan Help to Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, March 24, 1950; “Alien Farm Labor Protested Amid Political, Racial Rifts,” N.Y. Times, April 4, 1950; “Teaching Planned for Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1950; “Manuel Cabranes, Puerto Rican Aide in City for 20 years,” N.Y. Times; Feb. 17, 1984; “Aid Plan Outlined for Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, Sept. 15, 1949; “500 Pickets Blast Newspaper Series on Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. World Telegra, Oct. 31, 1947; “They Flee Dark Future to Warm Sun to Become City’s Problem Brood,” Sunday News, Oct. 12, 1947; “Solution is Sought to Migrant Influx,” N.Y. Times, Aug. 4, 1947; “Crime Increasing in ‘Little Spain’ ,” N.Y. Times, Aug. 2, 1947; “Official Worried by Influx of Migrant Puerto Ricans,” N.Y. Times, Aug. 2, 1947; “Puerto Rico Rush Boosts City Woes,” N.Y. Journal-American, Aug. 2, 1947; “Little Puerto Rico, A Gigantic Sardine Can,” N.Y. World-Telegram, May 2, 1947.