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Ruben Castillo

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Ruben Castillo
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Title:   Chief Judge
Position:   Seat #6
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   05/9/1994 - Present
Chief:   07/1/2013 - Present
Preceded by:   Nicholas Bua
Past post:   Attorney, Kirkland & Ellis
Past term:   1991-1994
Personal History
Born:   1954
Hometown:   Chicago, IL
Undergraduate:   Loyola University Chicago, 1976
Law School:   Northwestern University School of Law, 1979

Ruben Castillo is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He joined the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton.[1] He became chief judge of the court on July 1, 2013.[2] In 2008, Castillo was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court of the United States in the Obama Administration.[3]


Castillo graduated from Loyola University-Chicago with his bachelor's degree in 1976, and with his J.D. from Northwestern in 1979.[4]

Professional career

  • 1991-1994: Attorney in private practice, law firm of Kirkland & Ellis
  • 1989-1998: Adjunct professor, Northwestern University School of Law
  • 1988-1991: Regional counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
  • 1984-1988: Assistant United States Attorney in Special Criminal Prosecutions Division, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois
  • 1979-1984: Attorney in private practice, law firm of Jenner & Block[4][5]

Judicial career

Northern District of Illinois

On the recommendation of U.S. Senators Paul Simon and Carol Mosley-Braun, Castillo was nominated to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by President Bill Clinton on January 27, 1994, to a seat vacated by Nicholas Bua. Castillo was confirmed by the Senate on May 6, 1994, and received commission on May 9, 1994.[6]

Federal Sentencing Commission

In 1999, Castillo was appointed by President Clinton to be the Vice-Chair of the Federal Sentencing Commission.[7] The Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch whose purpose is to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice system. The commission's goal is to ensure proper justice by making detailed guidelines that set the appropriate sentences for offenders convicted of federal crimes. Castillo was the first Hispanic judge appointed to the Sentencing Commission since its creation in 1985.[5]

During his tenure on the Sentencing Commission, Castillo was an outspoken advocate to reduce the prison sentences of those convicted of the possession, sale, and manufacture of crack cocaine by retroactively reducing offenders' criminal penalties if they were convicted under tough drug laws passed in the 1980s by President Reagan.[8] Those laws came under criticism from civil libertarians and many judges who claimed that crack cocaine offenders were treated more harshly than users of powder cocaine, which resulted in stiffer penalties for African Americans.[9]

On December 11, 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that judges may deviate from the strict sentencing guidelines developed during the "War on Drugs." They could also impose looser sentences on those convicted of the sale, manufacture, or possession of crack cocaine. Castillo voted his support for eliminating mandatory minimums, claiming that about 85% of the offenders sentenced (for crack cocaine) across all federal judicial districts were African American.[9]

Notable cases

Sherlock Holmes characters no longer protected by copyright (2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd., 1:13-cv-01226)

On December 23, 2013, Judge Castillo found that characters from the pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes series of novels, including the titular Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, entered the public domain, and were no longer protected by copyright. Style and character elements from the works published post-1923, however, were still protected by copyright.[10]

In the underlying case, in February 2013, Sherlock Holmes expert Leslie Klinger sued the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd, alleging that the estate’s copyright on the literary characters was invalid, as much of the famous book series -- as well as the elements and characters within it -- was published in the United States prior to January 1, 1923.[10][11] Klinger therefore alleged that they became part of the public domain in 1980, fifty years after the author Conan Doyle’s death. Klinger also claimed that any post-1923 works were not entitled to copyright protection under the law of incremental expression.[10]

As plaintiff, Klinger sought a declaratory judgment that members of the public were entitled to use elements and characters from the Holmes series as they wished without fear of intellectual property repercussions from the Doyle estate.[10]

Judge Castillo agreed with Klinger as to his first allegation, writing that “[i]t is a bedrock principle of copyright that ‘once work enters the public domain it cannot be appropriated as private (intellectual property)’ and even the most creative of legal theories cannot trump this tenet.” He disagreed, however, with Klinger’s second allegation, contending that the plaintiff’s arguments were “unavailing and overcome by the relevant case law” on the subject.[10]

Wrongful death in Chicago jail (2013)

     United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Castillo was the presiding judge in a wrongful death case in Illinois. The case was brought when an inmate, Habib Solebo, was found dead in his Chicago jail cell. The wrongful death claim was made because when Solebo died, there were no medically licensed staff on the grounds. The Metropolitan Correctional Center had previous complaints brought by inmates about the medical care in the facility. Castillo ruled in favor of Solebo's family and awarded close to $1 million in damages. In his 160-page opinion Castillo wrote about the lack of medical supervision at the facility, noting that "some of the breakdowns in administering vital medication and providing adequate medical care to inmates … have now been remedied".[12]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Nicholas Bua
Northern District of Illinois
Seat #6
Succeeded by: