Q & A: Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí

Hon. Gustavo A. GelpíTell us your impressions about the convention this year.

I think the convention has been fantastic. We had 480 people registered! We weren’t expecting that many. This has been a significant achievement for the Federal Bar Association, nationally as well as for the Puerto Rico chapter.

We have even stimulated the local economy during September, which is pretty much a dead season for tourism.

We have had lawyers participating from Hawaii to Puerto Rico, and everywhere in between. There has especially been a great turnout of district judges. We have been meeting intensely these past couple of days about Congress and the freezing of funds that specifically affect the federal courts. More than mere brainstorming, we have been trying to come up with concrete solutions in order to attend these matters.

Can you tell us a bit about the CLE offerings at the convention?

I want to share that we have had two excellent panels on Women and Law, one with my colleague Hon. Aida M. Delgado-Colón, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Puerto Rico. We also had a panel on the 1986 San Juan DuPont Plaza Hotel Fire Case almost 30 years later, among many others.

We have been working hard on CLE and have great ideas for next year’s convention which will be held in Rhode Island, and the year after that, we’ll be having it in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It’s also important to note that the Federal Bar Foundation vice president, Néstor Méndez-Gómez, who is also Puerto Rican, will be presiding the foundation in two years.

How will you be able to manage your time being a federal judge as well the President of the FBA at the National level?

I’ve been in the Federal Bar for 20 years. I’ve been a judge for 12 years and a district judge for 7. I’ve always been very involved with the FBA. Computers and the Internet keep us wired— probably the only thing I’ll be doing a bit more is traveling to different districts across the nation. In December, for example, I’ll be in Hawaii in order to give a presentation: I’ll be comparing constitutional development between Puerto Rico and Hawaii, which is an interest of mine. There will also be a big conference about Women and Law there. The Board of Directors and Committee Members are infinitely helpful. In court, I’ve always been a “rocket docket” judge and am always on top of my game, so I can’t foresee any conflicts juggling both.

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Tell us about the FBA student chapters at the three accredited law schools in Puerto Rico. What’s in store for them this year?

The student chapters are part of the greater Puerto Rico chapter of the FBA. All students are members of the FBA while they are in law school. We always support student activities in the federal court; we also offer them numerous educational talks and panels. We are very much invested in the student population.

Hon. Gustavo A. GelpíWhat else should we know about the FBA?

I dare say that most judges in Puerto Rico are supportive of the FBA. I think around 85% of federal judges across the nation are FBA members.

The FBA holds no political positions on issues. We deal uniquely with the rule of law. I attribute this to our diverse body of members: Native Americans, men, women, Hispanics, LGBTT individuals… we are an inclusive organization. Our different sections reflect this diversity: Maritime Law, Litigation Law, Women and Law… there is a place for everyone here. Everyone contributes. What unites all of us is that we believe in the federal court system and in justice.

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