José A. Cabranes : biography
In 1979, Cabranes was in the unusual position of being seriously considered for a federal district judgeship in two different states, New York (where he had grown up) and Connecticut (where he was then serving as Yale’s General Counsel).“Yale Counsel in Right Place at Right Time for Judgeship: Cabranes a Contender in 2 U.S. Districts,” N.Y. Law Journal, July 25, 1979; “Opportunities’ Knocks Put Judge High on List,” N.Y. Times, May 9, 1994; “At the Bar, “ N.Y. Times, May 28, 1993. Both Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Abraham A. Ribicoff of Connecticut were reported to have offered to recommend his appointment to President Carter.“A Puerto Rican for the Federal Court,” N.Y. Times, Dec. 21, 1979.
Eventually opting for Connecticut, Cabranes accepted the offer of sponsorship of Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff. President Jimmy Carter nominated Cabranes on November 6, 1979 to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Cabranes was unanimously confirmed on December 10, 1979, thus becoming the first Puerto Rican to serve as a federal judge in the continental United States.Ibid.
While serving on the District Court, Cabranes was elected by the Judicial Conference of the United States to the Board of the Federal Judicial Center, the educational arm of the federal judiciary whose chairman is the Chief Justice of the United States.Report of Federal Judicial Center (1984). In 1988, Chief Justice Rehnquist named Cabranes as one of five federal judges on the Federal Courts Study Committee, a fifteen-member commission created by Act of Congress to study the administration of the federal courts.Report of the Federal Courts Study Committee (April 2, 1990).
Contemporary news accounts reported that in 1993 Cabranes was considered by President Clinton for appointment to the seat on the Supreme Court of the United States that ultimately went to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.“Clinton Nears Choice for High Court Nominee,” N.Y. Times, May 20, 1993. Had he been appointed, Cabranes would have been the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. These reports are confirmed in the autobiography of former Clinton administration adviser George Stephanopoulos, All Too Human: A Political Education.George Stephanopolous, All Too Human: A Political Education 189 (2000). Newspaper accounts in 1994 likewise reported that Cabranes was considered for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Harry Blackmun, which ultimately was filled by Stephen Breyer.“Opportunities’ Knocks Put Judge High on Lists,” N.Y. Times, May 9, 1994.