Obama Nominates 3 Pa. Judges to Federal Bench

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro (left). Source: Widener Law School website

The election is over and the thaw on judicial appointments has (hopefully) begun. This week, President Obama nominated 3 judges to take the bench in Pa.’s eastern district.

If confirmed, their jurisdiction would include southeast Pa.: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties.

Pennsylvania has an ignominious shortage of federal judges, the subject of a recent article in The Atlantic. The biggest problem: gridlock in the U.S. Senate. Senate rules make it easy for individual members to hold hostage the nomination process over unrelated issues.

Both Pa. Senators Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) say they support the nominations.

“I’m pleased that the White House has nominated these exceptionally qualified members of the legal community to the bench. I was proud to work in a bipartisan fashion with Sen. Toomey to nominate these individuals, and I’m hopeful that the Senate will work in a constructive manner to confirm them to the bench in the near future,” Casey said.

“On a bipartisan basis, I have been working closely with Sen. Casey on judicial nominations for our state to help confirm qualified, experienced individuals with unquestioned honesty, ability and integrity. I am confident that these three nominees will live up to these standards and hope that the Senate confirms them in a timely manner,” Toomey added.

Here are the bios, courtesy of the White House. The first two are registered Democrats; the third is a Republican.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition celebrated the fact that Quiñones Alejandro would be the first openly gay hispanic woman to serve on the federal bench anywhere.

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro currently serves as a Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, where she has presided over both civil and criminal matters.  Prior to joining the bench in 1991, Judge Quiñones worked as a Staff Attorney for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs from 1979 to 1991 and as an Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of Health and Human Services from 1977 to 1979.  She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney for Community Legal Services, Inc. in Philadelphia from 1975 to 1977.  Judge Quiñones received her J.D. in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and her B.B.A. cum laude in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico.

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo has served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2006, where he has presided over a variety of criminal and civil matters.  Prior to taking the bench, Judge Restrepo was a named partner at the law firm of Krasner & Restrepo from 1993 to 2006.  Previously, he served as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1990 to 1993 and as an Assistant Defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1987 to 1990.  Judge Restrepo began his legal career as a law clerk at the National Prison Project.  He received his J.D. in 1986 from Tulane Law School and his B.A. in 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl has served as President Judge of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas since 2008, having joined the court as a judge in 1998.  Previously, Judge Schmehl was a partner at the law firm of Rhoda, Stoudt & Bradley from 1988 to 1997 and an associate at the same firm from 1986 to 1987.  For much of that time, Judge Schmehl also served as the Berks County Solicitor.  From 1981 to 1986, he was a sole practitioner in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  Judge Schmehl also served as an Assistant District Attorney in Berks County from 1981 until 1986 and as an Assistant Public Defender in the same jurisdiction from 1980 until 1981.  He received his J.D. in 1980 from the University of Toledo School of Law and his B.A. in 1977 from Dickinson College.

2 Responses

  1. Judge Schmehl WAS a registered Democrat until he ran for judge in 1997. He caused a stir in 1992 when he broke with the party to support John Jones against Tim Holden in the old 6th District. He appeared with other Dems in a brochure that was distributed during the campaign.

  2. They all sound like competent jurists. I hope that the judicial nominations freeze will start to thaw here in the President’s second term.

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