President Barack Obama nominated Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this afternoon. If her nomination is confirmed, she will be the first openly lesbian Hispanic woman to serve in the federal court system. Judge Quiñones Alejandro has presided for the past 11 years on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Judge Quiñones Alejandro is a native of Puerto Rico, where she attended college and law school. She moved to Pennsylvania upon her graduation. Her legal career in Philadelphia began in 1975 as an attorney for Community Legal Services, where she helped defend low income residents. She later served as an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs and as an advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services. In 1980 she became an arbitrator for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, before her appointment as a judge in 1991.
She was recommended for federal service by both Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R). Senator Toomey praised Judge Quiñones Alejandro’s involvement within the Pennsylvania community, saying in a statement, “In her 21 years on the bench, Nitza Quiñones Alejandro has presided over many cases incorporating different facets of the law. In addition to her extensive experience in the courtroom, she has also remained active in her community through her work with schools and mentoring summer law interns.” The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition has written to the Senators to commend them for their support of Judge Quiñones Alejandro, and working towards a federal bench which better represents the constituents it serves.
President Obama has nominated eight openly gay judges for federal service over his first term, including Judge William L. Thomas, a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington County, PA and Temple University Law School in Philadelphia, earlier this month.