New federal chief judge keeps 3 flags on his desk

Ruben Castillo is the first Hispanic to be the chief judge for the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois

July 1, 2013

The new chief judge of the federal court system in Chicago has three flags on his desk.  Yes, the American flag is there, but so is the Mexican flag and the Puerto Rican flag.

“I’m a Hispanic hybrid of sorts because my dad is from Mexico and my mother was born in Puerto Rico and they met in Chicago,” Ruben Castillo said in his new chambers Monday. “Very proud of that.”

Castillo is the first Hispanic to hold the position, something he says is a great honor though he says that's not why he got the job. He says he’s simply the judge with the most seniority who is under 65, the criteria laid out in the statute dictating how chief judges are assigned. (Castillo was appointed a federal judge by President Bill Clinton in 1994.)  

Castillo grew up near Grand and Ashland in Chicago. He attended high school in the city, went to Loyola for college and Northwestern for law school.

“I’ve never lived anywhere other than Chicago, don’t care to, and I’m very proud now to be the chief judge in Chicago,” said Castillo.

As chief judge Castillo oversees 300 employees, including federal court reporters, clerks and judges.  He says the so-called sequestration and Congress’ inability to reach a budget agreement means his $14 million budget has been cut by 10 percent.

“My pledge to our federal district is not to allow our great court to be dismantled piece by piece as we go through budgetary cuts.  That is not what I want to preside over,” said Castillo.