Gustavo Gelpi was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father was a prominent attorney, and Gustavo Gelpi followed him into the law. He attended Academia del Perpetuo Socorro, and then went on to Brandeis University and Suffolk University Law School to complete his education.
He returned to San Juan and served a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. He went on to become a public defender, then assistant to the attorney general, and then deputy attorney general before becoming Puerto Rico’s Solicitor General. He was in private practice briefly and then became a judge for the District of Puerto Rico. President Biden nominated him for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit earlier this year, and the Senate recently confirmed that nomination.
Gelpi has also taught law at law schools in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Texas. He has been the president of the Puerto Rico chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Representing Puerto Rico
The First Circuit hears cases for Puerto Rico, as well as Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Gelpi is only the second Puerto Rican judge to serve as a judge for this court.The first was Judge Juan Torruella, whom Gelpi replaces. he is also the first public defender ever to have served on the First Circuit.
Gelpi has a history of supporting civil rights and human rights in Puerto Rico. He has written critically about the Insular Cases, and was criticized for doing so in the Senate hearings on his confirmation. He has presided over 3,400 cases, including the case of Vaello-Madero, calling for equal rights to SSI for residents of Puerto Rico. This level of experience is higher than that of any judicial nominee in the past seven years.
Judge Gelpi is known as a champion of civil rights and of Puerto Rico.