Harlingen native and Yale graduate confirmed to federal bench for Southern District of Texas
Report via Houston Chronicle
Yale-educated lawyer from the Rio Grande Valley has been has been confirmed to the federal bench for the Southern District of Texas.
Fernando Rodriguez Jr., who specialized in going after sex traffickers who prey on children, is the first Latino judge given the nod for a lifetime appointment under President Donald Trump. And while Rodriguez has no judicial experience, he will preside over a busy court docket in Brownsville, which had one of the longest standing judicial vacancies. The border region handles a vast docket of primarily immigration cases.
“I am thrilled the Senate has overwhelmingly voted to confirm Fernando Rodriguez, Jr.,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement Tuesday. “He has dedicated his life to the cause of justice, in particular, combatting the heinous crimes of modern day slavery and human trafficking around the world.”
“I am confident his experience, diligence, and commitment to the rule of law will serve him and South Texans well,” he said.
Fellow Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn echoed Cruz’s enthusiasm in the same news release, lauding his “deep devotion to serving others.”
In Houston, Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal said, the sprawling Southern District of Texas is delighted to welcome Rodriguez as its newest judge.
“We are grateful that he has been confirmed, both because he will be a terrific judge and because of the demanding case load in our court in general and in the Brownsville division in particular,” Rosenthal said, noting that “his confirmation is very much in our court’s, and the public’s, interest. . . to continue to provide fair and timely justice to all who come before us.”
Rodriguez is among 41 lifetime confirmations to the bench during Trump’s first 500 days in office. Nine of the new judges are women, according to Lena Zwarensteyn, who tracks the judicial appointments for the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. In all, 19 district judges and two people of color have been chosen for district court judgeships, she said.
Rodriguez was living abroad when put his name in the hat for consideration. He has been working in Latin America since 2009, first in Bolivia and recently heading a project in the Dominican Republic that went after sex traffickers who targeted children. According to the senators’ joint news release, his work at the organization helped more than 100 victims and secured more than 20 convictions for perpetrators.
The Harlingen native graduated from Yale in 1991. He then worked with Teach for America in Houston ISD at Scarborough Elementary near Aldine, which serves a majority low-income Hispanic population. After he earned a law degree at University of Texas, he served as a briefing attorney for Justice Nathan L. Hecht on the Supreme Court of Texas. He also worked for 12 years at Baker Botts LLP in Dallas, handling patent infringement, trade secrets, contract and deceptive trade practice cases.
Rosenthal, the chief judge for the region, said Rodriguez is now awaiting his presidential commission. Then he will take the oath. In the meantime, he is in the process of moving his family from the Dominican Republic.