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Featured Justice

El Paso federal judge Philip Martinez dies


U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez, a jurist who presided over several major cases in 19 years on the federal bench, died suddenly Friday night, friends and associates said. He was 63.

Martinez grew up in El Paso and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and his law degree from Harvard.

He served as an attorney in private practice in El Paso from 1982 to 1990. He served as an elected county and state district judge in El Paso from 1991 to 2002.

He was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the Senate in 2002. He served as a judge for the Western District of Texas in El Paso since his confirmation.

In 2020, he ruled that a jury should decide whether a 2015 police shooting death of an El Paso man in a mental health crisis may be traced to poor training and discipline standards set by Police Chief Greg Allen. The trial had been put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, he ruled in favor of the state of Texas in its long-running efforts to shut down gambling at El Paso’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. The Supreme Court earlier this week asked the U.S. solicitor general for an opinion on whether it should hear an appeal of that ruling.

El Paso leaders praised Martinez’s contributions to the community.

Cover photo: U.S. District Judge Philip R. Martinez administers the oath of citizenship to more than 1,000 people at a ceremony at the El Paso Convention Center in 2008. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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