WASHINGTON - President Obama is expected to nominate Tuesday two judges with Philadelphia ties and Hispanic roots, along with Berks County's top judge, for seats on the federal district court covering the Philadelphia area.
Obama plans to nominate Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, Luis Felipe Restrepo, and Jeffrey L. Schmehl for judgeships on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"These men and women have had distinguished legal careers, and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench," the president said in a statement. "They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice."
If confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate, the judges would fill three of six vacancies on the 22-judge court.
Quiñones Alejandro has been a judge on Common Pleas Court since 1991, when she became the first Hispanic woman to hold a seat there. She was previously a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and an attorney adviser for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1975.
Restrepo has been a magistrate judge in the Eastern District since 2006. He has also advocated greater ethnic diversity on the bench. A former president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, he said in 2003, "If all they see day after day is people on the bench who can't identify with their language or color, it is not healthy."
Restrepo was previously a partner in a private practice and has been a public defender in Philadelphia in federal and local courts. Born in Colombia, he became a U.S. citizen in 1993, according to a biography published by the federal court system, after graduating from Tulane Law School in 1986.
Schmehl has been president judge of Berks County Court since 2008. He joined it in 1998. He was previously a partner in a private firm. Early in his career, he served as an assistant district attorney and assistant public defender in Berks County.
He received his law degree from the University of Toledo Law School in 1980.