Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, Dora L. Irizarry is the first Hispanic District Judge to serve in the Eastern District of New York. On April 23, 2016, she became the first Hispanic Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, and the first Hispanic woman Chief Judge within the Second Circuit. Born in Puerto Rico, and raised in the South Bronx, where she attended public schools, she graduated cum laude with honors and distinction in the major of Political Sociology from Yale University in 1976. In 1979, she graduated from Columbia Law School, where she was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow, and joined the Bronx District Attorney’s Office Appeals Bureau. Assigned to the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, she investigated and prosecuted some of the City’s largest complex narcotics cases. She also served in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, and as a special prosecutor in the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Her exemplary accomplishments and innovative leadership in the field of complex narcotics investigations garnered her numerous awards.
In 1995, she was appointed a New York City Criminal Court Judge. In 1997, Judge Irizarry became the first Hispanic woman appointed to the New York State Court of Claims and the first Hispanic woman to sit in Kings County Supreme Court. Thereafter, she sat in New York County Supreme Court. In 2002, she left the bench to run for New York State Attorney General, becoming the first Hispanic woman ever to run for statewide office. She then became Of Counsel to the firm of Hoguet Newman & Regal, LLP, specializing in commercial and employment litigation.
A dedicated mentor to students and attorneys alike, Judge Irizarry is an active member of many bar and judicial associations. Judge Irizarry has participated in many Continuing Legal Education programs as well as programs to foster diversity within the legal profession at all levels, particularly in the federal courts. She is a Fellow of the New York State Bar Foundation, and was President of the Association of Hispanic Judges (1997-2002). Included among the numerous awards and recognitions received for her contributions to the administration of justice and enhancement of the legal profession are the 2017 Hon. William C. Conner Inn of Court Excellence Award, the 2016 Federal Bar Association’s Pass the Torch Award, the 2016 Leadership Award from the Cervantes Society of the New York State Courts, the 2014 Columbia Latin American Law Students Distinguished Alumna Award, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission’s N.Y. District Office Award in 2011, the Federal Bar Council’s Award for Dedicated and Outstanding Service to the U.S. Courts in the Second Circuit in 2006 and 2009, the congressionally recognized Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2008, and the 2008 Brooklyn Bar Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Science of Jurisprudence and Public Service.
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. recently re-appointed Judge Irizarry to the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee of the Judicial Conference for a second three- year term. She also serves on the Second Circuit’s State-Federal Judicial Council. She previously served on the Eastern District’s Criminal Justice Act Panel Committee, where she spearheaded the implementation of a Mentoring Program to increase the diversity of qualified applicants to the Criminal Justice Act Panel. Since 2005, Judge Irizarry has presided over a drug re-entry court providing intensive post-conviction supervision to persons whose crimes were motivated by addiction to make them productive members of society and reduce recidivism.