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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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167 news items

Daily Business Review (registration)

Daily Business Review (registration)
Tue, 19 May 2015 10:15:00 -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 ...

South Florida Business Journal

South Florida Business Journal
Fri, 22 May 2015 11:56:15 -0700

Headway Office Park in Lauderdale Lakes is headed to auction after its owner lost a $12.9 million foreclosure judgment. Wells Fargo Bank, representing a commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) trust, won the judgment against SRA/Sunrise ...
Miami Herald
Tue, 12 May 2015 15:18:45 -0700

A former Miami police officer who shook down a Liberty City sports-betting operation for thousands of dollars has been sentenced to two years in prison. Jerry Sutherland, 28, was also fined $2,000 and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service ...
Thu, 14 May 2015 13:15:00 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Miami issued a ruling on Wednesday granting Madonna and her attorney, Yano Rubinstein of Rubinstein Law, their request that she and her manager, Guy Oseary, and the company they co-own, MGHCandy, be ...

Sun Sentinel

Law360 (subscription)
Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:17:47 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced Barry Kaplowitz to 60 months in prison plus three years of probation and ordered him to pay almost $3 million in restitution with his co-defendants. Kaplowitz was convicted on Feb. 20 on one count of ...

Daily Business Review (registration)

Daily Business Review (registration)
Mon, 27 Apr 2015 09:07:30 -0700

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga granted HVB's motion to dismiss the complaint as barred by the relevant statutes of limitations—four years for fraud and related claims, five years for racketeering. Instead of affirming or reversing Altonaga, the ...


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 Today
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 ...

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