José A. Cabranes was appoint­ed a Judge of the Unit­ed States Court of Appeals for the Sec­ond Cir­cuit in 1994. At the time of his appoint­ment, he was Chief Judge of the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Con­necti­cut, a court to which he was appoint­ed in 1979.

Judge Cabranes was born in 1940 in Mayagüez, Puer­to Rico, and at the age of five moved with his fam­i­ly to the South Bronx. After attend­ing pub­lic schools in New York City, he grad­u­at­ed from Colum­bia Col­lege (A.B., 1961), Yale Law School (J.D., 1965) and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, Cam­bridge, Eng­land (M.Litt. in Inter­na­tion­al Law, 1967). He stud­ied at Cam­bridge under a Kel­lett Research Fel­low­ship from Colum­bia Col­lege and the Human­i­tar­i­an Trust Stu­dentship in Pub­lic Inter­na­tion­al Law from the Fac­ul­ty Board of Law of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cambridge. 

Judge Cabranes was serv­ing as Gen­er­al Coun­sel of Yale Uni­ver­si­ty when appoint­ed to the fed­er­al bench in 1979; he was the first Puer­to Rican appoint­ed to the fed­er­al bench in the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States. Pre­vi­ous­ly he had prac­ticed in a New York City law firm; taught law on the full-time fac­ul­ty of Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Law School and the adjunct fac­ul­ty of Yale Law School; and served as Spe­cial Coun­sel to the Gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico and as head of the Com­mon­wealth of Puer­to Rico’s office in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. He is the author of Cit­i­zen­ship and the Amer­i­can Empire (Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1979), a leg­isla­tive his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States cit­i­zen­ship of the peo­ple of Puer­to Rico, and co-author (with Kate Stith) of Fear of Judg­ing: Sen­tenc­ing Guide­lines in the Fed­er­al Courts (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1998)(Certificate of Mer­it of the Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, 1999), and arti­cles in var­i­ous law journals. 

Judge Cabranes served as a trustee of Yale Uni­ver­si­ty from 1987 to 1999, and now serves as a trustee of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. He is also a for­mer trustee of Col­gate Uni­ver­si­ty. He has been elect­ed a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Sci­ences and a Fel­low of the Amer­i­can Bar Foundation. 

In 1988, Judge Cabranes was one of five Fed­er­al judges appoint­ed by Chief Jus­tice Rehn­quist to the 15-mem­ber Fed­er­al Courts Study Com­mit­tee cre­at­ed by Act of Con­gress “to exam­ine prob­lems fac­ing the Fed­er­al courts and devel­op a long-range plan for the future of the Fed­er­al judiciary.” 

He was the recip­i­ent of the Learned Hand Medal for Excel­lence in Fed­er­al Jurispru­dence of the Fed­er­al Bar Coun­cil in 2000. 

Before his appoint­ment to the fed­er­al bench, Judge Cabranes served as Chair­man of the Board of Direc­tors of two major His­pan­ic civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions: Aspi­ra of New York, the edu­ca­tion­al agency that helps inner-city His­pan­ic youth pre­pare for col­lege, and the Puer­to Rican Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (of which he was a found­ing member).