Chief Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr.

Nominated for a Lifetime Position to:
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Nomination Status:
Fair? Yes
Independent? Yes
Qualified? Yes

NCJW Supports Chief Judge Gelpí. Here’s why: 

Chief Judge Gelpí has heard over 1,600 cases since his unanimous confirmation to the US District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in 2006. While serving on the district court, he has been invited to sit on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit as a visiting judge to hear specific cases. Chief Judge Gelpí is committed to ensuring US citizens residing in Puerto Rico have the same rights as other Americans, including the right to vote in presidential elections, receive Social Security when eligible, and marry whomever they choose. 

Chief Judge Gelpí’s stance on important issues:

Police Reform: In the case of United States v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), Chief Judge Gelpí approved a consent decree aimed at enacting reforms within the PRPD after an investigation revealed ongoing patterns of police misconduct that deprived people of their constitutional and legal rights, including use of excessive force. 

Human Rights: Chief Judge Gelpí’s order in United States v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico required the Puerto Rican government to pay $20 million toward rehabilitation and mental health care services to remedy years of underfunding. In Conde-Vidal et. al. v. Padilla, he ruled that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s continued statutory prohibition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. And, he has criticized the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court decisions beginning in 1901 that limited constitutional protections for people living in US territories. 

Evictions and Foreclosures: In a standing order released on January 26, 2021, Chief Judge Gelpi issued a stay on all eviction and foreclosure proceedings due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, writing that he was “ensur[ing] that no persons are evicted during this ongoing worldwide crisis . . . .”

Public Defense: Chief Judge Gelpí represented low-income criminal defendants before the First Circuit Court of Appeals as an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the District of Puerto Rico and served as special counsel for the United States Sentencing Commission. Additionally, he supported increased funding for legal aid and federal public defender services in a 2013 speech

Social Security: In United States v. Vaello-Madero, he held that excluding residents of Puerto Rico from receiving Supplemental Security Income is a constitutional violation, a decision that was later affirmed by the First Circuit and recently granted certiorari by the US Supreme Court. 

Access to Justice: Chief Judge Gelpí ordered several Puerto Rico municipalities to grant Jehovah’s Witnesses access to gated communities to speak freely about their religious beliefs as required by the First Amendment in Watchtower Bible Tract Society of New York v. Municipality of Santa Isabel, et al. In Del Valle Group v. Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Chief Judge Gelpí decided in favor of a building contractor barred from bidding on a contract with the Puerto Rico Port Authority (PRPA) due to a pending lawsuit against PRPA at the time. Specifically, he found that this action violated the First Amendment by retaliating against the contractor for exercising its right to petition the courts.

Chief Judge Gelpí’s education and experience:

Experience: Chief Judge Gelpí became Chief Judge of the US District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in 2018. He previously served as Puerto Rico’s Solicitor General from 1999-2000, arguing several landmark cases on behalf of the government of Puerto Rico before the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, and DC Circuits. In addition, he has argued cases before the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. 

Education and Clerkships: Chief Judge Gelpí attended Brandeis University and Suffolk University Law School, receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree in 2006. Following law school, he clerked for Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez on the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Chief Judge Gelpí has been an adjunct professor of law at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and Interamerican University School of Law, and a visiting professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and Suffolk University Law School. 

Take Action! Tell the Senate to Confirm Chief Judge Gelpí!

Because #CourtsMatter, NCJW believes all federal judges must be:


Do they respect equality and justice for all and understand the impact of the law on everyone?


Are they impartial, nonpartisan, and not influenced by outside parties or interests?


Have they been objectively assessed for their experience, competence, principles, and temperament?

I want federal judges who are fair, independent, and qualified.