Lesbian Nominated to Head Puerto Rico Supreme Court

Oronoz Rodriguez
Maite Oronoz Rodríguez; courtesy Puerto Rico Supreme Court

Puerto Rico Supreme Court Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez, who is lesbian, has been nominated to be the court’s chief justice, a move that would make her the first openly LGBT chief justice in the U.S.

Alejandro García Padilla, governor of the U.S. commonwealth, announced Oronoz Rodríguez’s nomination Friday, Caribbean Business reports.

“It is time to fortify justice amid the challenges of the future,” he said, according to the publication. “It is time for a generational change. … I tasked this job to the youngest justice in the court…Maite Oronoz Rodríguez.”

Oronoz Rodríguez, 39, has been a member of the court since 2014, when she became its first openly LGBT justice. “I accept this nomination with the energy and force of a new generation, with my love for Puerto Rico and my unwavering commitment to the judicial branch and justice,” she said Friday, according to Caribbean Business.

If confirmed by Puerto Rico’s Senate, she will succeed Chief Justice Liana Fiol Matta, who will turn 70 this year, the age limit for members of the court. The governor said he is “totally confident” Oronoz Rodríguez will be confirmed, Caribbean Business reports.

Lambda Legal hailed her nomination. “We are pleased with Governor García Padilla’s decision and applaud this important moment in Puerto Rico,” said a statement released by staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “For the judicial system in the United States to be truly fair, it must reflect the full range of our country's rich diversity. It is critical that the judiciary be composed of judges who truly represent and understand the issues faced by all of the people affected by its rulings, including LGBT people. A diverse judiciary serves not only to improve the quality of justice, but to boost public confidence in the courts.”

Oronoz Rodríguez began her legal career as a clerk for Federico Hernández Denton, who was then chief justice of the Puerto Rico high court. She has served as the commonwealth’s deputy solicitor general and worked as an attorney in private practice, specializing in labor, contract, and constitutional law.

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