For Armando Bonilla becoming the first Hispanic to be nominated into the United States Court of Federal Claims is an opportunity that is truly awarded for him and for other Hispanics with dreams of entering law and politics.
“As exciting as it is to be the first Hispanic to achieve something, my wish for future generations, including my own children…is that we replace the word first with yet another, ” said Bonilla, giving a speech at the Department of Justice in-celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Before an audience of students, Bonilla spoke to each one reminding them that, “Don’t bid against yourself … There will be enough people out there telling you ‘no’ or suggest that you set more realistic expectations or achievable goals. You should not be one of those people. Do not hold yourself back.”
According to Bonilla, he has been combing through the history of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and found that since its establishment back in 1855—during the administration of the 14th President of the United States Franklin Pierce—there has been a total of 101 judges who have served on the court.
One of the nation’s oldest federal courts, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is—according to title 28 of the United States code or 28 U.S.C. § 1491—a court that hears claims for monetary damages that may come forth due to the United States Constitution or Federal Statures. The court mainly hears cases that involve lawsuits which have been filed against the federal government. To be a judge in the court you must be nominated by a seating president.
Back in May, President Barack Obama made his announcement regarding nominating Bonilla as judge into the court.
“Throughout their careers, these individuals have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to public service. It is with full confidence in their ability, integrity, and independence that I nominate them to serve on the Court of Federal Claims, ” said President Obama, during his nomination speech of Bonilla and two others.
Currently awaiting confirmation from the Senate, Bonilla could find himself serving a 15-year term as judge. Before becoming a possible judge, Bonilla’s career in law began as a cleaner when he helped his parents clean law offices at night which was a period of his life he calls a badge of honor.
Graduating from Seton Hall University of Law, Bonilla eventually found himself working for the Department of Justice for 20 years first starting back in 1994. Since his career began in the DOJ, Bonilla has served as prosecutor of the within such sections as the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and an appellate attorney in the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch. Bonilla currently serves as an Associate Deputy Attorney General within the DOJ.
“The day I was formally sworn into the Bar, my Dad, who was 5-feet-6 on a good day, walked around as if he were 7 feet tall,” Bonilla recalls remembering how proud he had made his father when he passed the bar to become a lawyer.
Within the DOJ today out of the 11,000 who serve within the department 400 are Hispanic. And out of the 93 U.S. attorneys of the DOJ 6 are of Hispanic origin.
His mother a Cuban immigrant and his father of Cuban-American origin, Bonilla connects his strength and perseverance to that of his mother who traveled from Havana with his aunt and grandmother and his father who—one of seven children—dropped out of high-school, joined the marines, and later worked several various jobs in order to provide for his family.
“He exemplified the most outstanding qualities of the Hispanic culture and Hispanic people: the selfless sacrifice, the steely resolve and unbridled optimism and the genuine pride in an honest day’s work – all toward the cause of improving the lives of the next generation,” said Bonilla, reminding us all—Hispanics—that if we stay true, keep our optimism when times are hard, anything we want to achieve can and will happen.