Luis Felipe Restrepo
Luis Felipe Restrepo is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He is the second Hispanic judge to serve on that Court.
Restrepo was born in Medellín Colombia and moved to the United States when he was two years old. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his law degree from Tulane Law School. Following law school, Restrepo worked within the ACLU's National Prison Project as a law clerk. In 1987, he joined the Defender Association of Philadelphia, as an Assistant Defender. Three year's later, he became an Assistant Federal Defender in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 1993, he became a partner at Krasner & Restrepo.
Restrepo's judicial career began in 2006, when he was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He served in that role until 2013. President Barack Obama appointed Restrepo to the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2012. While the original nomination was returned due to the adjournment of the Senate, President Obama renominated him in 2013 and he was confirmed later that year. In the following year, President Obama nominated Restrepo to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. That nomination was also returned because of the Senate's adjournment, but Restrepo was renominated in 2015 and confirmed in 2016. In 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Restrepo to the United States Sentencing Commission, but that nomination was returned in 2019. In August 2020, President Trump stated that he intended to renominated Restrepo to the Commission.
As a Magistrate Judge and a District Judge, Restrepo helped create the Eastern District's reentry program, working with community partners, the Office of Probation, the Federal Defender's Office, and the U.S. Attorney's Office to assist those recently released from federal custody reenter communities and lead productive lives. He insisted on continuing his involvement with the STAR (Supervision to Aid Reentry) Program when he became a Third Circuit Judge. Judge Restrepo is dedicated to the program's success, which began in 2007 with 12 participants and has expanded to 20 participants who meet every two weeks, as a group, to discuss all aspects of their supervised release. In 2019, Judge Restrepo was awarded the Champion of Justice Judicial Recognition Award from the National Criminal Defense bar for his role in establishing and overseeing the program.
In 2018, Restrepo spoke with Al Día about his experience as an immigrant. He and his family moved to the United States when his father, an economist, was offered a job with the Organization of American States. Restrepo's family planned to eventually move back to Colombia, but plans changed when extreme violence broke out there during the Narco Wars of the 1970s and 1980s. When the situation at home did not stabilize, his family settled down in the United States long-term, but it was difficult for Colombian immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship at the time, due to the drug wars in Colombia. Restrepo had a G-4 visa, or "international civil servant-dependent visa", which was contingent on his father's employment. Restrepo described his decision to pursue a career in law as a "gamble" because he was uncertain of whether he would be able to practice law due to his immigration status. His gamble ultimately paid off; Restrepo earned his law degree in 1986 - the same year that President Ronald Regan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which created a pathway to citizenship for immigrants like Restrepo. Restrepo took his oath of citizenship in 1993, in Philadelphia.
When asked what his role as a federal judge means for Latinos, Restrepo stated, "I think it's important for Latinos to understand they can do whatever in this country. This country really is a country of opportunity and you have to take advantage of the opportunity." Restrepo also described the significant role immigrants have made in shaping the United States, sharing that, "We all need to step back and understand that the greatness of this country is the fact that people have come all over the world to make it what it is."