POLITICS

Cuban-American federal appeals judge withdraws from Supreme Court consideration

Adalberto J. Jordan, 54, came to the United States from Cuba at the age of 6.

Adalberto J. Jordan, 54, came to the United States from Cuba at the age of 6.

A federal appeals court judge, who could have been the first Cuban-American to sit on the country's highest court, has decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the Supreme Court.

The Miami-based Judge Adalberto Jordan told U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, that he is not interested in being a candidate for the court opening. Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown confirmed the conversation on Wednesday, which was first reported by CNN.

Jordan's office in Miami had no comment.

Jordan is U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the 11th Circuit, which encompasses Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

President Barack Obama is considering a number of candidates to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and Jordan has been confirmed twice before by the U.S. Senate. Republicans, however, have vowed to block any Obama nominee in hopes that a new Republican president will pick the ninth Supreme Court justice.

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Jordan, 54, has a compelling life story.

Born in Havana shortly after the communist revolution, Jordan came to the U.S. with his family as a small boy along with thousands of other Cuban exiles. He attended a Catholic high school in Miami and got both his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Miami.

Jordan, who goes by "Bert," has served as a federal prosecutor, a U.S. district judge appointed by Bill Clinton and has sat on the generally conservative 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2012 — the first Cuban-American to do so. He also clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The Senate confirmed him to the Atlanta-based appeals court by a 94-5 vote.

During his confirmation hearings, Jordan was asked by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, about his views on the impartiality of judges and whether there was any place for personal or political viewpoints in their rulings.

"We are all human beings, of course, but I think as a judge you need to try and strive very, very hard to make sure you are deciding the case on something other than your own preferences and views, whatever those might be," Jordan replied. "So I have strived and I hope I have achieved impartiality in my years on the bench in Miami."

As a district judge, Jordan presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the convictions of brothers Hector and Eduardo Orlansky in a $164 million bank fraud case in which he sentenced both to 20 years behind bars. Jordan also awarded a group of Liberians $22 million in damages after they sued under a U.S. anti-torture law as victims of atrocities under former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

On the 11th Circuit, Jordan wrote an opinion concluding that black children in Alabama had no legal standing to sue over whether the state's property tax provisions prevented predominantly black school districts from raising money. Jordan wrote that courts are not always the proper forum to win relief, "no matter how noble the cause."

Jordan has also dissented in notable cases, including one in which the 11th Circuit majority voted to allow execution of a female Georgia death row inmate despite questions about whether a certain drug was causing botched executions.

Dennis Kainen, a Miami defense attorney and former federal public defender, said Jordan is among the most even-handed of judges he has worked with. One example, Kainen said, is that Jordan would usually address criminal defendants by their names rather than referring to them as simply, "the defendant."

"He has a perfect demeanor. There's no arrogance. There's no ego," Kainen said. "I think he would be wonderful for the [Supreme Court]. I've never heard anything negative about Judge Jordan's temperament or demeanor."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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