Judge José A. Cabranes, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is the 2023 recipient of the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award. Cabranes will receive the award in a Sept. 26 ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Devitt Award honors an Article III judge who has achieved a distinguished career and made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a whole.
Recipients are chosen by a committee of federal judges. This year, the committee was chaired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and included Judge Britt C. Grant, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Judge José Cabranes is a legend in the law,” Justice Kavanaugh said. “He has devoted his career to defending the rule of law, ensuring equal justice, and enhancing American education. He has worked hard to mentor young lawyers and serve others in need. He is a superb judge and extraordinary scholar. As a federal judge for the past 44 years, he has preserved the Constitution and protected individual liberty. He is well known for his brilliance, judgment, and wit.”
“It is an honor to receive this award,” Cabranes said in a statement. “The colleagues with whom I have been privileged to serve for more than four decades are models of the judicial craft. In their name, as well as my own, I express gratitude and reaffirm our commitment to the principle that animates our work – equal justice under law.”
According to a biography on the Second Circuit website, Cabranes was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in 1979. He was the first Puerto Rican appointed to the federal bench in the continental United States.
He was chief judge of the district court in 1994, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 2013, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., appointed Cabranes to serve also on the three-judge United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.
In 1988, Cabranes was one of five federal judges appointed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to the 15-member Federal Courts Study Committee, which was created by Congress “to examine problems facing the federal courts and develop a long-range plan for the future of the federal judiciary.”
Cabranes was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and at the age of five moved with his family to the South Bronx. After attending public schools in New York City, he graduated from Columbia College in 1961 and Yale Law School in 1965. In 1967, he received a degree in international law from the University of Cambridge in England.
Cabranes served in a New York City law firm and as special counsel to the governor of Puerto Rico. He was General Counsel of Yale University when he joined the federal bench.
According to a news release by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, which sponsors the Devitt Award, Cabranes was nominated for the honor by Chief Judge Debra A. Livingston, of the Second Circuit.
“Judge Cabranes has been the epitome of what a federal judge ought to be – a brilliant scholar, a wise jurist, and a generous colleague,” Livingston said. “He has made extraordinary contributions across multiple fields, each of which has strengthened the federal judiciary immeasurably.”
The Devitt Award is named for the late Edward J. Devitt, longtime chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The award was established in 1982.
Related Topics: Awards & Honors