José A. Cabranes


José A. Cabranes : biography

December 22, 1940 –

In 1971, Cabranes left law practice to become Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers University Law School, in Newark, where he taught administrative law, conflicts of law and international law. While at Rutgers Law School he continued to live in New York City, and in 1971 was appointed by Mayor John V. Lindsay as a member of the board of directors of a newly-created public corporation, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.Ibid.; “City Aide Named to Succeed Lacot in Lincoln Hospital,” N.Y. Times, Nov. 18, 1971.

In 1973, Cabranes took a leave of absence from Rutgers Law School to accept appointment by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Rafael Hernández-Colón, as Special Counsel to the Governor and head of the Commonwealth’s Washington office (later known as the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration).“Yale Counsel in Right Place at Right Time: Cabranes a Contender in 2 U.S. Districts,” N.Y. Law Journal, July 25, 1979; Court biography; Yale Weekly Bulletin and Calendar, Oct. 3-10, 1977.

In 1975, he moved to New Haven, when he was appointed by Yale’s President, Kingman Brewster, Jr., as Yale’s first general counsel. He served as Yale’s general counsel also under Acting President Hanna Holborn Gray (later President of the University of Chicago) and President A. Bartlett Giamatti.Ibid.

While General Counsel of Yale University (1975–1980), Cabranes served in a number of part-time public positions, including as a Public Member of the United States Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Belgrade, 1977–1978) and as Consultant to Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance (1977–1978).Ibid.; “Cabranes Named to Human Rights Post,” San Juan Star, Oct. 8, 1977. He was elected a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and published a legislative history of the 1917 law that collectively conferred American citizenship of the people of Puerto Rico, Citizenship and the American Empire (Yale University Press, 1978).

President Jimmy Carter appointed Cabranes as one of the lay members of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, chaired by Mrs. Rosalyn Carter (1977–1979),“Two at Yale Selected for President’s Panel,” New Haven Register, March 29, 1977. and President Carter was reported to have been ready to appoint him to an ambassadorial position.“Hispanic-American Turns Down Envoy’s Post Amid Controversy,” N.Y. Times, June 13, 1977; “Yale Official Turns Down Colombia Ambassadorship,” Wash. Post, June 14, 1977. Cabranes’s refusal to accept appointment as Ambassador to Colombia, after the Colombian government’s initial hesitation to accept a Puerto Rican as the American envoy, led to a political firestorm and charges by national Hispanic leaders of the White House’s mismanagement of an appointment they had supported.Ibid.

Cabranes was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in December 1979 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in August 1994. Columbia Trustee Biography

Throughout his judicial career, Cabranes’s principal avocational activity has been university trusteeship, including the boards of the two American universities of which he is an alumnus. He served as a trustee of Colgate University, in Hamilton, NY, from 1981 to 1989, and as a successor trustee of Yale (Fellow of the Yale Corporation), from 1987-1999. He was the first Roman Catholic to serve on the Yale Corporation. Since 2000, he has been a trustee of Columbia University.Dan Oren, Joining the Club 434 (2d. ed. 2000); Columbia University website. Columbia Trustee Biography

Awards & recognition

Among the many awards received by Cabranes are the following:

  • John Jay Award from Columbia University (1991)
  • Connecticut Bar Association Henry J. Naruk Judiciary Award (1993)
  • Gavel Award (Certificate of Merit) of the American Bar Association (1999)
  • Federal Bar Council’s Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence (2000)

Notable publications

Cabranes is the author of Citizenship and The American Empire (Yale 1979), a legislative history of the United States citizenship of the people of Puerto Rico, and (with Kate Stith), Fear of Judging: Sentencing Guidelines in the Federal Courts (University of Chicago Press, 1998).