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U.S. Senate confirms Restrepo (L ’86) to appellate bench

January 12, 2016


After Senate confirmation, U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (L ’86) took his seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Jan. 13 and started hearing arguments at the end of the month.

Photos courtesy of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo 

This story was updated Feb. 3. 

Almost 14 months after President Barack Obama nominated U.S. District Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to the appellate bench, the U.S. Senate approved the 1986 Tulane Law School graduate for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and he took his seat Jan. 13.

The new job is Restrepo’s third post in the federal judiciary. He served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District from 2006 until 2013, when Obama nominated him and the Senate confirmed him to the district court. Obama chose Restrepo for an appellate vacancy in November 2014.

The Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit covers Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands.


Judge Theodore McKee (center), chief of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, administers the oath to Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (L ’86) for his new appellate position as his wife, Cathy, holds the bible.

Restrepo received bipartisan support from both Pennsylvania senators, Democrat Bob Casey Jr. and Republican Pat Toomey. The Senate, in its first vote of 2016, approved him 82-6.

“I’m very humbled by the confidence the president and Senators Casey and Toomey have demonstrated in me and the support they’ve given me in the confirmation process for both the district court and the court of appeals,” Restrepo said. “I’m looking forward to my new role as a circuit judge.”

He started hearing arguments in cases in late January.

Chief Judge Theodore McKee said he was “absolutely ecstatic” to have Restrepo on board.

“He is an amazing individual whom I have tremendous respect for,” McKee said. He called Retrepo sensitive, intellectual and humble. “And he cares so much about the people behind the cases.”

As a magistrate judge, Restrepo started supervising a program that helps federal offenders reenter society after serving their sentences. Offenders who successfully complete the program, which assists with education, training, employment and other needs, can reduce their probation time. Restrepo continued working with the reentry court as a district court judge and plans to stay involved even on the appellate bench, McKee said.

Restrepo, who goes by “Phil,” was born in Colombia and was 2 when his family moved to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 1993. Restrepo grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. He later taught as an adjunct professor at Penn and Temple University law schools and has long been friends with Tulane University President Mike Fitts, a former Penn law dean.

"The entire Tulane community celebrates the approval of Judge Restrepo's nomination to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals," Fitts said. "I have known Phil for years. He is a model of professionalism and public service and a loyal Tulane alumnus. His wisdom and reputation for fairness are widely known. His achievements are further evidence of the many contributions Tulane graduates continue to make in  our society."

Before enrolling at Tulane Law, Restrepo worked in sports marketing. After getting his law degree, he was a public defender in Pennsylvania then started a two-partner firm where he practiced criminal defense in state and federal courts and handled civil rights cases raising allegations of police abuse as well as various civil suits.

Restrepo's elevation makes him the fourth Tulane alum sitting on a federal appeals court, joining 5th Circuit Judges Edith Brown Clement (L ’73) and W. Eugene Davis (L ’60) and 11th Circuit Judge William Pryor (L ’87). Three Tulanians continue to serve at the federal appellate level on senior status: Judges Jacques Wiener (L ’61) and John Duhé (L ’57) on the 5th Circuit and Alvin Schall (L ’69) on the Federal Circuit. 


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