|The Federal Judicial Portraits of Puerto Rico - A portrait series by David Wells Roth|
The Judicial Portraits of Puerto Rico's Federal Court
After the Spanish-American war ended in 1899 and Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States, a federal court was installed in old San Juan and a provisional judge was appointed to the bench. Since the establishment of Puerto Rico as a territory, there have been 34 Federal Judges appointed to the court in Puerto Rico.
Over time, the courthouse in old San Juan was expanded beyond the walls of the nineteenth century building it occupied through the first half of the 20th century. In 1974, a large modern structure was erected in Hato Rey, the business district of San Juan, where the majority of federal cases are heard today. This courthouse was named after the thirteenth Judge to be appointed - the first Judge native to Puerto Rico - Judge Clemente Ruiz-Nazario. Since then, all the Judges appointed in the district court have been natives of Puerto Rico.
As is generally the tradition in the US court system, portraits are commissioned to preserve and document the legacy and historical presence of the sitting Judges. For reasons unknown, this tradition was not followed in Puerto Rico. Observing the void in the preservation of a visual judicial history, Chief Judge José Antonio Fusté, the presiding Chief Judge in 2007, conceived the idea of commissioning the series of portraits to paint the portraits of all 31 judges (at that time) in the court’s history. Now it is 34.
The central atrium of the