A road of legal scholarship and practice that began at UB School of Law led Julio M. Fuentes ’75 to the second-highest court in the nation. With Justice Fuentes’ appointment in March, 2000, by President Clinton to the United States Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit, he became UB Law’s highest-ranking federal jurist. Now, after Judge Fuentes assumed senior status in July, his friends and family recently gathered for a portrait presentation and ceremony honoring his judicial career.
Among those expressing praise for Fuentes’ service were former colleagues on the Third Circuit bench and current Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and President Barack Obama (via official letter), Fuentes’ three daughters, and former law clerks Jennifer M. Pacella ‘08 and Jorge Tenreiro.
Fuentes' portrait will hang in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Frank R. Lautenberg U.S. Post Office and Courthouse. It is the same courtroom where Fuentes tried his first case as a new attorney.
The 3rd Circuit encompasses New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands, so Justice Fuentes works not only in the Newark federal courthouse, but also in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the islands.
Born and reared in Puerto Rico, Justice Fuentes grew up in Toms River, N. J., where his mother, a single parent, worked as a practical nurse. After high school, he joined the military, serving as a lieutenant with the military police of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Group in Panama, from 1966 to 1969. Later, his undergraduate work was at Southern Illinois University. After law school, he also completed master’s degrees in Latin American affairs at New York University and in liberal arts at Rutgers University.
Justice Fuentes had been a judge on New Jersey’s Superior Court bench in Essex County since 1987, having served on the court’s Family, Criminal, Civil, Chancery and General Equity divisions. Before becoming a Superior Court judge, he was a municipal court judge from 1978 to 1987. Previous to that, he practiced civil and criminal law in the firm of Fuentes, Plant & Velazquez, in Jersey City, N.J.
The jurist is the first person of Hispanic origin to sit on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.