Photo: Federico Hernandez Denton
Puerto Rican Supreme Court Chief Justice Federico Hernandez Denton stepped down after nearly 30 years on the bench and was replaced by Justice Liana Fiol Matta.
Hernandez Denton’s term on the high court ended on Saturday, when he turned 70 and had to leave the judicial body due to constitutional requirements.
The former chief justice said in a radio interview that one of the decisions he would have liked to change involved a person who underwent a sex change operation and was unable to change the birth certificate information.
“That’s a case that moved me, it bothers me,” Hernandez Denton told WKAQ last week.
Fiol Matta will be the second woman to serve as chief justice in the U.S. commonwealth.
“I joined the Supreme Court with the first woman who became an associate justice, Miriam Naveira Merly. Those were times of change for the institution and for me,” Hernandez Denton said during his farewell ceremony.
The Hernandez Denton court will be remembered for many changes, including the opening of trials to the news media.
Hernandez Denton worked with press associations to develop and implement rules for easing media access to Puerto Rico’s courts and trial information.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos bestowed the Order of Isabella the Catholic on Hernandez Denton for his contributions to the law in Puerto Rico and Ibero-America.
Spanish Consul in Puerto Rico Eduardo Garrigues Lopez presented the award to the jurist at the Supreme Court Library in San Juan last Thursday.
The Order of Isabella the Catholic, created by King Ferdinand VII in 1815, is one of the highest honors that Spain can grant an individual.
Fiol Matta, considered a liberal, earned a law degree from the University of Puerto Rico and a master’s and doctorate from New York’s Columbia University.
The new chief justice taught at several universities, worked for different government agencies, served as an appeals court judge and joined the high court as an associate justice in 2004.
Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced her appointment as chief justice on Friday.