On February 15, 2012, the Senate confirmed Judge Adalberto José Jordán to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Jordán previously clerked for Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Thomas A. Clark and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He was also an appellate litigator, an Assistant United States Attorney, and a district judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.
When he announced Judge Jordán’s nomination to the Eleventh Circuit, President Obama stated that Judge Jordán had an “impressive legal career” and would bring “an unwavering commitment to fairness and judicial integrity to the federal bench.”
Judge Jordán was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961. At the age of six he immigrated to the United States with his parents. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from the University of Miami in 1984, and his J.D. summa cum laude from University of Miami School of Law in 1987, graduating second in his class. Following law school, Judge Jordán clerked for Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Thomas A. Clark from 1987 to 1988; he then served for a year as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He joined Steel Hector & Davis LLP (now Squire Sanders & Dempsey) in 1989 as a litigation associate and, later, partner at the firm, focusing on appellate practice.
In 1994 he returned to public service as an Assistant United States Attorney in the appellate division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, working on both civil and criminal appeals. Four years later, he became the chief of the office and, additionally, served as special counsel to the United States Attorney for legal policy. He was nominated for his district court seat by President Bill Clinton on March 15, 1999, taking his seat on September 9, 1999, after being confirmed by a Senate vote of 93-1. President Obama nominated Judge Jordán to the Eleventh Circuit on August 2, 2011. He was confirmed on February 15, 2012, by a Senate vote of 94-5.
Judge Jordán has taught courses at both University of Miami School of Law and at Florida International University College of Law.
Judge Jordán is the first Cuban-born judge to sit on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Commenting on his nomination, Hispanic National Bar Association President Diana Sen said, “It is high time that a Latino judge be appointed to the Eleventh Circuit, which serves one of the fastest-growing Latino population areas in the United States.” The American Bar Association gave Judge Jordán the rating of “Unanimously Well Qualified” to serve on the court of appeals.
While serving as a judge for the Southern District of Florida, Judge Jordán presided over a number of notable cases. He heard United States v. Orlansky, a bank fraud and money laundering case that lasted almost four years with a trial of four months. After the jury found the four defendants guilty, Jordán sentenced the two lead defendants to twenty years in prison. The case on appeal was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit on all of the matters raised. Judge Jordán also presided over a case charging members of Greenpeace with misdemeanor criminal charges under a nineteenth century statute (18 U.S.C. § 2279) that declares a vessel cannot be boarded when it is “about to arrive at the place of her destination . . . and before she has been completely moored.” The case involved statutory interpretation and the use of a justification defense. Judge Jordán granted a Rule 29 judgment of acquittal in favor of Greenpeace, holding that the statute was not violated because the vessel was at such a great distance from the Port of Miami at the time when Greenpeace members boarded it.
Judge Jordán awarded $22 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Liberian citizens suing under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act who claimed that they were victims of the Liberian Anti-Terrorism Unit. In a case addressing political gerrymandering, Judge Jordán wrote a concurrence calling on the Supreme Court to provide more guidance for redistricting cases. His concurrence was cited by the Supreme Court in Vieth v. Jubelirer.
On the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Jordán wrote the opinion in I.L. v. Alabama, which dismissed the claims of public school children who alleged that property tax provisions in the Alabama State Constitution undermined the ability of certain rural, primarily black school districts to raise revenue. Although the district court found that several of the challenged provisions had been enacted with “racially discriminatory intent,” the Eleventh Circuit held that the plaintiff school children lacked standing to sue. Writing for the panel, Judge Jordán recognized the lingering effects of “Alabama’s deep and troubled history of racial discrimination,” but concluded that “[c]ourts . . . are not always able to provide relief, no matter how noble the cause.”
Judge Jordán has also been an important voice of dissent. Judge Jordán dissented from an unsigned majority opinion that allowed the execution of a Georgia woman using the chemical pentobarbital—a drug responsible for three recent botched executions, which might sometimes cause severe pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The case called into question a Georgia law that prevents disclosure of the manufacturers of the execution drug. Judge Jordán wrote, “Georgia can certainly choose, as a matter of state law, to keep much of its execution protocol secret, but it cannot hide behind that veil of secrecy once something has gone demonstrably wrong with the compounded pentobarbital it has procured.” In another recent dissent, Judge Jordán reiterated his concern “that Georgia’s Secrecy Act . . . has constitutional problems.” As a result of the majority’s denial of a rehearing en banc in that case, Georgia executed its oldest death row inmate.
Professional and Academic Activities
Judge Jordán is a member of the Florida Bar. He served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements and is a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules. Among honors and awards given to him are the 2010 Southern District of Florida Bankruptcy Bar Association Outstanding Service Award, the 2008 Legal Excellence Award from Florida International University College of Law, and the 2007 Allan R. Schwartz Judicial Excellence Award of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association.