EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso has suddenly lost one of its most respected jurists.
U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez, who presided over several major cases, died suddenly Friday night, friends and associates said. He was 63.
Martinez grew up in El Paso and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and his law degree from Harvard.
He served as an attorney in private practice in El Paso from 1982 to 1990. He served as an elected county and state district judge in El Paso from 1991 to 2002.
He was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the Senate in 2002. He served as a judge for the Western District of Texas in El Paso since his confirmation.
In 2020, he ruled that a jury should decide whether a 2015 police shooting death of an El Paso man in a mental health crisis may be traced to poor training and discipline standards set by Police Chief Greg Allen. The trial had been put on hold by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2019, he ruled in favor of the state of Texas in its long-running efforts to shut down gambling at El Paso’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week asked the U.S. solicitor general for an opinion on whether it should hear an appeal of that ruling.
El Paso leaders praised Martinez’s contributions to the community.
"I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Judge Philip Martinez. Our community has lost a tremendous leader — a great public servant dedicated to justice," said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
"Shocked and saddened by this news. Judge Martinez was a true legal giant. Always had a kind words of encouragement for me on my journey," said Joe Moody, speaker pro tempore of the Texas House of Representatives.