Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Adalberto Jordan, A.B. '84, J.D. '87
The University of Miami is proud to welcome Judge Adalberto Jordan as the School of Law’s spring 2022 commencement speaker.
Judge Adalberto “Bert” Jordan, A.B. '84, J.D. ’87, exemplifies the finest qualities of the United States judicial system. An enthusiastic believer in freedom and justice for all, he is known throughout legal circles for his even-handed approach to his rulings on appellate matters at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. At a time of increasing partisanship, Jordan stands firm in his commitment to the rule of law.
In 2012, Jordan became the first Cuban American to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, winning confirmation by a 94-5 vote in the Senate. At that time, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked Jordan about the impartiality of judges and whether their rulings should reflect their political or personal viewpoints. “We are all human beings, of course, but I think as a judge you need to try and strive very, very hard to make sure you are deciding the case on something other than your own preferences and views, whatever those might be,” Jordan replied. “So, I have strived, and I hope I have achieved impartiality in my years on the bench in Miami.”
Born in Havana, Cuba, Jordan came to Miami with his family in 1968. He quickly learned English in elementary school, began playing baseball, and found himself interested in a legal career. At St. Brendan High School, he took several law-related courses before graduating in 1980.
As an undergraduate at the University of Miami, Jordan majored in politics and public affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences, taking classes on topics like constitutional and environmental law. He also made the varsity baseball team as a utility infielder under legendary coach Ron Fraser. Jordan graduated magna cum laude in 1984 and continued to affirm his passion for justice in his studies at the School of Law.
In the third year of law school, Jordan served as articles and comments editor for the University of Miami Law Review, where he polished his writing and editing skills. His paper, “Imagery, Humor and the Judicial Opinion,” analyzed the use of literary allusions, imagery, and humor by judges in their opinions. In 1987, Jordan graduated summa cum laude and achieved his goal of entering the legal profession. After law school, Jordan served as a clerk for Judge Thomas Alonzo Clark on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, followed by a second clerkship for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1989, Jordan returned to Miami as an associate for Steel, Hector, and Davis, a prominent local firm. He managed litigation and appellate matters and was named a partner in 1994. Soon after, he moved to the public sector, handling appellate matters as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. In 1998, he was named chief of the appellate division. A year later, President Bill Clinton nominated Jordan to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and he was confirmed in a 93-1 vote. As a district judge, Jordan displayed his ability to address complex and challenging cases. He presided at the trial of Hector and Eduardo Orlansky in a $164 million bank fraud case and sentenced both brothers to 20 years in prison. In a case with international ramifications, Jordan awarded $22 million in damages to a group of Liberian plaintiffs who had filed suit under a U.S. anti-torture law as victims of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
In 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Jordan to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Today, Jordan sits as one of 11 full-time active judges on the court, supplemented by several senior judges.
“We do a lot of criminal work, as well as civil rights and diversity-related matters, and might have a fraud case, an admiralty case, and a state insurance case, on succeeding days,” said Jordan in a 2018 interview for Miami Law. “We are always moving and always learning something new.”
Since joining the School of Law’s adjunct faculty in 1989, Jordan has taught courses on federal courts, federal criminal practice, capital punishment, and judicial writing.
Jordan also has been active in national judicial organizations, serving on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements from 2010 to 2012 and on the Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules from 2010 to 2016. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the Judicial Advisory Board of the American Society of International Law.
Miami criminal defense lawyer Dennis G. Kainen, J.D. '81, once said that Jordan is one of the nation’s most even-handed jurists. “There’s no arrogance. There’s no ego. He has a perfect demeanor.”