|Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico|
August 1, 2006
|Appointed by||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Hector Manuel Laffitte|
|Born||1965 (age 49–50)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Alma mater||Brandeis University
Suffolk University Law School
Early life and career
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Gelpí received a B.A. from Brandeis University in 1987 and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in 1991 (from which he also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree in 2006). He was a law clerk to Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico from 1991 to 1993. Gelpí was then an assistant federal public defender in the Office of the Federal Public Defender from 1993 to 1997. He worked in Puerto Rico's Department of Justice from 1997 to 1999, first as an assistant to the attorney general, and then as assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel. During Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló's second term, Gelpí served as Puerto Rico's Solicitor General from 1999-2000, and in said capacity argued several landmark cases on behalf of the Government of Puerto Rico before the United States Courts of Appeal for the First, Second and DC Circuits, as well as the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. He was a special litigation counsel in the law firm of McConnell Valdes in 2001, but left that position to become a United States Magistrate Judge, an office that he held for five years, from 2001 to 2006.
Federal judicial service
On April 24, 2006, Gelpí was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the District of Puerto Rico vacated by Hector M. Laffitte. He was endorsed by the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Puerto Rico Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Gelpí was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on July 20, 2006, and received his commission on August 1, 2006.
Contrary to other members of the Federal bench, Gelpí maintains a high public profile, attending many public activities, such as San Juan mayor Jorge Santini's 2009 inaugural, where he administered the oath of office. He greatly enjoys speaking to high school students, and during professional basketball games has sat and chatted with youth and adult offenders whom the Puerto Rico Corrections Administration takes to these events.
In September 2013 Judge Gelpi became National President of the Federal Bar Association, becoming only the second hispanic and first federal judge to achieve this milestone. He is also a Sustaining Life Fellow of the Foundation of the Federal Bar Association, a prominent distinction for any jurist.
He is the author of a court opinion in the case of Consejo de Salud de la Playa de Ponce vs. Rullan, that holds that Puerto Rico is no longer an unincorporated territory of the United States, and has thus become an incorporated territory. In his opinion, Judge Gelpi notes that his ruling doesn't override the United Supreme Court's Insular Cases.
Honors and recognitions
On July 25, 2009, Judge Gelpí was the keynote speaker at the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's Constitution Day ceremonies, held in San Juan. On July 4, 2011, at the official government ceremony, he read the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, an act historically carried out by his colleague Judge Jaime Pieras, Jr., who just weeks earlier had died of cancer, and to whom the ceremony was dedicated. Judge Gelpi has also participated in Hawaii, Alaska, Chicago, Puerto Rico, District of Columbia, New York and Boston in a series of scholarly historical lectures sponsored by the Federal Bar Association about the racist underpinnings of the Insular Cases, and how the Supreme Court and the US Congress have disparately treated the US citizens residing in the former and current US territories. On August 14, 2014, Judge Gelpi presented at the Interamerican University former Governor Rafael Hernandez-Colon's book about the nature and development of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Acknowledging that he did not agree with all of the former governor's pronouncements, he nonetheless urged all students to read the same because it is important for understanding the constitutional history of Puerto Rico.
- U.S. Department of Justice Biography (accessed Jun 19, 2008)
- http://www.vocero.com/noticia-11264-_jura_santini_para_un_tercer_trmino.html[dead link]
- CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE v JOHNNY RULLAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO (PDF), The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, retrieved 2009-12-20
- http://www.vocero.com/noticia-27798-juez_federal_admite_que_hay_trato_desigual_hacia_pr.html[dead link]
- Gustavo Gelpí at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- The Insular Cases: A Comparative Historical Study of Puerto Rico, Hawaiʻi, and the Philippines, Gustavo A. Gelpí.
- The Insular Cases: A Comparative Historical Study of Puerto Rico and Others Overseas U.S. Territories, Gustavo A. Gelpí.