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Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15 to pay tribute to the achievements of generations who have contributed to American life. The federal courts join in celebrating their accomplishments at every level of the Third Branch of government.

The designation of September 15 through October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month became law in 1988. September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence in five Latin American countries and the days that follow mark the independence of other Latin American countries. Find more information at The Library of Congress.  

Among the Hispanic and Latino Americans who serve at every level of the federal court system are judges. Learn about three judges' stories during their first-person narratives. 

Never Let Circumstances Limit You

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, of the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, grew up in an impoverished New York City neighborhood in the 1970s, believing in the American Dream. Her parents, immigrants of Hispanic and East Indian descent, instilled in her the value of hard work and perseverance.

She reflects on the challenges and pressures that came with being the first Hispanic female Article III judge in Pennsylvania, the first Asian American Article III judge in Pennsylvania, and the first South Asian American female Article III judge in the United States.

Earn Your Keep and You Will Earn Respect

U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sánchez, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, gives a four-minute, first-person, narrative that is a part of a collection of Pathways to the Bench videos about judges who share what they learned on their journey to the federal bench.

For Judge Sánchez, an important lesson was about how to earn the respect of others:  “I think that the one thing I had learned as a young boy was that — no matter your background — people who see that you’re a hard worker, that you earn your keep, will respect you.”

Persevere, Even When You Doubt Yourself

Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez, of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, encourages young people to persevere, urging them to keep going even when they’re not sure that they will succeed. 

One of seven children of migrant workers, she worked her way through college and law school.  In her Pathways to the Bench profile she said that, even though she was often worried about money and grades, she “just kept thinking about the end goal of wanting to become a lawyer and wanting to make a difference in someone’ life.”

More Living History

Find more living history in the story of a California girl growing up in the 1940s.  Read the script and re-enact the story of Sylvia Mendez and her parents’ fight for inclusion in decent public schools.

DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.