The Garden Island, a newspaper published in the Hawaiian island of Kauai, profiled retired U.S. District Court Judge Alfred Laureta ’53. Now 95, Laureta shares the lessons of his life from growing up in a close-knit Filipino community to his exemplary career in law.
Before he attended one of the best universities in the country or served on the governor’s cabinet or worked on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, before he was appointed by the president of the United States to serve as a federal judge on a tiny island in the South Pacific, even before he had 17 great-grandchildren, Alfred Laureta was a poor Filipino boy in a plantation camp.
It was a three-year scholarship to a private college in New York City, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious and selective in the nation. Fordham University alumni include U.S. senators, Academy Award-winning actors, two former CIA directors and the current U.S. president, and its law school ranks among the best in the world.
In the late 1940s, Laureta got accepted. And it was a big deal, he said, not just on a personal level, but also because of what he represented.
In 1963, Hawaii Gov. John Burns made Laureta director of the state Department of Labor, a post he held for four years, until he was appointed First Circuit Court judge, the first Filipino-American judge in history.
Laureta moved to Kauai in 1969, and he presided over cases in Fifth Circuit Court for the better part of the decade, before breaking racial and ethnic barriers once again. In June 1978, Laureta was confirmed as the first federal judge of Filipino ancestry in U.S. history.