Name: Regina “Gina” Rodriguez
Title: Judge – U.S. District Court – District of Colorado
Firm Background: Special Counsel, 2002-05; Partner, 2005-16
Practice: Product Liability and Environmental
What have you been doing since moving on from Faegre Drinker?
I continued my practice as a litigator at two large, Colorado law firms after leaving Faegre in January 2016 and just recently was confirmed and commissioned as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Colorado.
What do you see will be the most challenging and/or most rewarding part of your work?
The volume of pressing matters is the biggest challenge. I have a docket of both civil and criminal cases. Colorado is a district that is on the emergency list, so the volume of cases per judge is extremely high.
Three weeks into the job, I have a current caseload of 280 civil cases with more than 100 motions that need to be addressed in short order. There are six other active judges in this district, and I was randomly assigned to my current cases so that we all have the same caseload.
I am thankful that I have experience as a U.S. Attorney (civil) and appeared in federal court during most of my career. My new role serving as a judge and not as an advocate is what is new. The procedures, systems, internal workings of the court are all new.
I am most excited about getting to observe and work with the attorneys who appear before me and to be a part of our system of justice.
So far, what has been different about working as a judge compared to private practice?
Fundamentally my job has evolved from advocating on behalf of clients to making many important decisions. It is a responsibility I take very seriously because my decisions will make a big impact in the lives of others. As a judge, I have an obligation to think about how my decision will impact others. I view cases very differently now.
I don’t have to worry about billing my time or business development, which is fine. I still strive to be efficient, however, as there is so much work to do.
Tell us a little bit about the process of becoming a federal judge?
I was first nominated by President Obama in 2016, and in 2017 the nomination expired without action. I went through most of the vetting process but not a confirmation hearing.
This spring, I was proud to be in the first slate of judicial nominees of the Biden Presidency. I was one of five nominees. My confirmation hearing was held in May and I was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 8. I was commissioned to begin work on July 1 and my investiture ceremony was recently held on August 13.
Cristal DeHerrera, Heather Carson Perkins (Faegre Drinker partner), Shelby Myers (Faegre Drinker alumna), The Honorable Gina Rodriguez and Hetal Doshi (Faegre Drinker alumna)
What led you to decide to pursue becoming a federal judge?
I didn’t come from a family of lawyers. My dad was a history buff and read a lot about history and the Constitution. My mother is Japanese American, and she and her family were interned at Heart Mountain in 1942. I remember hearing about how the court failed to uphold rule of law and the Constitutional rights of these prisoners —practical and real implications of our system of justice.
I was a law clerk in the U.S. Attorney’s office during law school and didn’t know much about our court system. From the first moment I stepped into the federal courtroom, I knew that becoming a judge was what I wanted to do. I was in awe of my first tangible experience with justice in our country.
I then had the great fortune of practicing in federal court most of my career.
When the opportunity presented itself this year, and it appeared that it could really go through, I felt that not only was it my honor and privilege but my duty to serve in this capacity.
What are your fondest memories from Faegre Drinker?
I started as special counsel and in two years became a partner in general litigation working on products liability and civil rights litigation. I was part of the team that tried a number of cases for many different clients.
Prior to Faegre, I had worked for seven years at a boutique litigation firm and eight years at the U.S. Attorney’s office and was the chief of the civil division.
The people with whom I worked at Faegre still remain close friends of mine. Faegre & Benson was a place where you felt like family. We all enjoyed each other’s company both during and outside of work. Working on trial teams are some of the best memories that I have. The big trials where we spent many late nights working hard in far-flung places were some of my best experiences. The celebratory dinners and events were always fun.
It wasn’t just the members of the Denver office who made work fun. We worked extensively with the Minneapolis office, especially [with] Joe Price, John Mandler, Winn Rockwell and Jim O’Neill. When the firm merged with Baker & Daniels, we worked closely with lawyers in Indianapolis as well.
Group of Faegre Drinker attendees at Judge Rodriguez’s investiture ceremony
If you could, what would you change about the legal industry?
If I could change one thing, I would have the lawyers talk more frequently to one another to bring more civility back to the practice. In today’s world, they seem to engage in email exchanges that really don’t get to the heart of the matter. I would love to see lawyers engage in real conversations as I think better outcomes can be achieved through this interaction. Overall civility is what I learned from the senior lawyers with whom I practiced. I think there should be more of it now.
What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?
After a long day at work I don’t really want to read more, but I will admit that I am “keeping up” with some people on television. It is my chance to unwind.
How do like to spend your time outside of work?
My daughter is heading off to college this fall, so I am spending as much time as possible with my children as I can. My son is an active basketball and football player, and I enjoy watching him compete.
What’s next for you personally or professionally?
They tell me that this federal judgeship is a lifetime gig, so my professional aspirations are pretty much defined. Still, the learning curve here is steep so I think I will be professionally challenged for a very long time to come.
Personally, I am soaking up all the time I can with my children and husband before the kids leave the nest.