Hon. Maite D. Oronoz-Rodríguez was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico on February 22, 2016, becoming the first openly LGBTQ female Chief Justice and, as such, the first in United States history. She is the third woman to preside the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and the youngest person to do so. She previously served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico from 2014-2016. Chief Justice Oronoz-Rodríguez began her professional career as a law clerk to former Chief Justice Federico Hernández-Denton. She also served as Deputy Solicitor General and Acting Solicitor General of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and later engaged in the private practice of the law, especially in the fields of commercial and civil litigation in both state and federal courts. Before her appointment to the Supreme Court, she served as Chief Legal Counsel of the city of San Juan. Chief Justice Oronoz-Rodríguez has a B.A. in History from Villanova University, Pennsylvania (Cum Laude, Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society, Dean’s List). She received her J.D., Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review. She also earned an LL.M. from Columbia University in New York. She has postgraduate studies in History from University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus and History and Literature courses from the University of Florence, Italy. As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico she presides over the Puerto Rico Judicial Academy, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Judicial Evaluation Commission, the Court Administrators Advisory Council, the Access to Justice Commission and the Committee on Gender and Equality. During her tenure as Chief Justice, her work has focused on the pillars of Access to Justice —which includes the incorporation of Technology and Education—, Adjudicative and Administrative Efficiency, Accountability, Transparency and Judicial Independence. She recently published the Strategic Plan for the Judicial Branch 2020-2025: Roadmap to a Leading-Edge Justice which includes goals and strategies that have been grouped in those core areas. During the last five years, she has modernized the Puerto Rican judicial system by implementing technological initiatives such as electronic filing for all civil cases at the trial level. Thus achieving the implementation of electronic notification and filing in the 13 Judicial Regions of the Court of First Instance, electronic notification of the judicial determinations of the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, as well as the expansion of the use of the videoconference system to hear civil and criminal cases throughout Puerto Rico, among other projects. She has also focused her efforts on addressing gender equality and eradicating gender- based violence through the expansion of specialized domestic violence courts, education and community engagement, among other initiatives. In that direction, she recently published the Map for Gender Equality in the Judicial Branch of Puerto Rico and announced the celebration of the Judicial Congress Justice with a Gender Perspective: From Theory to Practice. She is a member of the Permanent Commission on Gender and Access to Justice of the Ibero-American Judicial Summit since 2018 and a member of the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices. In 2018 she received the “LLSA IMPACTO Award” in recognition for her inspiring leadership, commitment to public service and justice for all. She was awarded the National Center for State Courts’ 2018 Distinguished Service Award for her leadership overseeing the restoration of court services following hurricanes Irma and María. In 2020, she delivered the 26th Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice at the New York University School of Law, “Gender Equality and the Rule of Law”. She is married to Appellate Judge Gina R. Méndez-Miró. In 2018 they became mothers of twins. Click here to view Chief Justice Oronoz-Rodríguez’s bio in Spanish.
A Conversation with Groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Supreme Court Justices