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Cecilia Maria Altonaga
Cecilia Altonaga.jpg
Judge on United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Assumed office
May 7, 2003
Nominated by George W. Bush
Preceded by Shelby Highsmith
Personal details
Born (1962-12-26) December 26, 1962 (age 52)
Baltimore, Maryland
Alma mater Florida International University, Yale Law School

Cecilia Maria Altonaga (born December 26, 1962) is a Florida United States district court judge. She is the first Cuban-American woman to be appointed as a federal judge in the United States.


Altonaga was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and is an alumnus of Florida International University, where she received her B.A. in 1983. She graduated from the Yale Law School in 1986. She worked as an attorney in the Miami Dade County Attorney's Office from 1986–1987, and then served as a law clerk to Edward B. Davis of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida from 1987-88 before returning to the County Attorney's Office until 1996. In 1996, Governor Lawton Chiles appointed her as a County Court Judge on Florida's Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court. In 1999, she was elevated to Circuit Court Judge in that district by Governor Jeb Bush.

She was nominated for a seat on U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by George W. Bush on January 15, 2003, to a seat vacated by Shelby Highsmith. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 2003, and received her commission the following day. During her time on the federal bench, Altonaga has been noted for her strong support of the recently created Florida International University College of Law, having served as the keynote speaker in the 2004 Convocation, judged several moot court competitions, and employed FIU law students as summer interns.

Supreme Court speculation[edit]

In July 2005, following the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Judge Altonaga's name was raised as a potential George W. Bush Supreme Court candidate, a position for which she was promoted by Florida's Hispanic community. However, it would be a very rare occurrence for a sitting District Court judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court. At 43, Altonaga was younger than most other Hispanics or women who were being mentioned as possible nominees, which might have made her a more attractive choice to the President. However, President Bush went through several other nominees, and nominated Judge Samuel Alito for the position.

Notable Rulings[edit]

On June 14, 2007, Altonaga ruled that US Sugar Corporation's practice of pumping untreated wastewater into Lake Okeechobee was in violation of the Clean Water Act. Largely as a result of this decision, on June 25, 2008 the state of Florida announced plans to purchase 300 square miles (780 km2) of land controlled by US Sugar, which will be used to restore vital water flow between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades National Park, helping to ensure its survival in the face of competition for water from surrounding development.[1]

She also presided over the trial of Charles McArthur Emmanuel, son of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, for torture.[2]

In September 2006, Sheikh Mohammed was accused of encouraging the abduction and enslavement of thousands of boys for use as jockeys in camel races. A class-action suit was filed in the state of Florida in the United States.[3][4][5][6] In July 2007, Judge Altonaga granted a motion to dismiss the suit because none of the involved parties resided in the United States.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schor, Elana (2008-06-24). "Florida to buy 187,000 farmland acres to preserve Everglades". Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  2. ^ Anderson, Curt (2009-01-09). "Taylor's son gets 97 years in prison for torture". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-01-09. [dead link]
  3. ^ Gumbel, Andrew (2006-09-15). "Dubai princes accused of masterminding trade in jockey slaves". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  4. ^ "Dubai's ruler accused of slavery". BBC News. 2006-09-14. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  5. ^ A Dubai Leader Faces Charges of Enslavement - September 14, 2007 - The New York Sun
  6. ^ Cover Bio from Current Biography Monthly Magazine - April 2008


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Shelby Highsmith
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecilia_Altonaga — Please support Wikipedia.
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150 news items

Miami Herald
Mon, 21 Sep 2015 16:05:51 -0700

A Miami police officer surrendered to federal authorities Monday on charges of accepting cash bribes for providing “pirate” tow-truck operators with information about traffic accidents. Julio Ruiz, 42, pleaded not guilty to misusing his position and ...

Daily Business Review (registration)

Daily Business Review (registration)
Tue, 19 May 2015 11:47:23 -0700

A federal judge sternly blamed the U.S. government Tuesday for lengthy delays in a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani-American man accusing the U.S. of malicious prosecution in a terror-financing case. U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with ...
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Wed, 22 Feb 2012 07:38:35 -0800

As the first Cuban-American woman to serve as a federal judge, Cecilia Altonaga is breaking new ground. "Every time I achieved what I set out to do I saw myself not only as a Cuban-American, but as a woman opening doors," she said. "It's important for ...


Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:24:53 -0800

But he is expected to receive a much shorter prison sentence when he appears in May before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga because he agreed to plead guilty and resign from the force last month. Sutherland, who had joined the Miami police out of ...
Miami Herald
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:37:29 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga threw out a Miami jury's guilty verdicts against Tiffany Foster, 49, saying the trial evidence showed that she had “withdrawn” from the scheme to bilk Medicare more than five years before prosecutors filed an ...

Sun Sentinel

Sun Sentinel
Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:06:22 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga has not ruled on the Broward Schools' dismissal request. The lawsuit, which has been moved to federal court in Miami because of complaints related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), seeks back pay, overtime and ...

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Sun Sentinel
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:52:24 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga agreed and sentenced Fiorenza to three years and one month in federal prison, four months more than prosecutors had recommended. Fiorenza was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. The judge told Fiorenza one of his ...

Local 10

Local 10
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:48:22 -0700

A former Florida Highway Patrol trooper was sentenced Thursday to more than four years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme. U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced Kirk Chambers to 51 months in federal prison after he previously ...

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