Appointed: April 28, 1994
Rafael Diaz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1944 to Encarnacion Diaz and Felicita Velazcuez. He attended Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, New York. At age eighteen, he joined the United States Navy and served his country proudly in Vietnam as a front line medic with the U.S. Marines. He received military awards for that service and was honorably discharged.
Following his military service, he attended the City College of New York and graduated with a degree in Psychology. After his graduation he served as a court clerk for Judge Edward R. Neaher of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In 1981 he graduated from the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C.
After law school Judge Diaz worked with the Office of Peoples Counsel. After leaving the Office of Peoples Counsel he worked as an associate in the firm of Hayes and White, and in his own private practice. In 1984 he joined the Office of Corporation Counsel and was assigned to the Criminal Division of the office. In 1986 he was transferred to the Special Litigation Office of the Civil Division where he served as a senior trial attorney until his appointment to the bench. In the Office of Corporation Counsel Judge Diaz litigated civil jury cases typically comprised of complex issues in such areas as civil rights, constitutional rights, torts, wrongful death cases, Special Education and Handicapped Individuals, Court Appointment of Receiverships, Monitors, and cases in special areas of banking. He earned a reputation as an outstanding trial attorney, who worked tirelessly for the interests of the citizens of the District of Columbia.
Judge Diaz has been an active member of the Hispanic Bar Association for more than ten years, and was elected President of that group in 1986. During his term as president, he initiated an Annual Law Day which benefited District of Columbia residents by making attorneys available to offer free legal advice on a wide-range of issues. He also participated in efforts to enact legislation to provide interpreter services in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He is a strong supporter of the Hispanic Bar Association’s mentor program and contributes much of his private time to issues of importance to the Hispanic Community.
Judge Diaz has served as a Commissioner on the D.C. Human Rights Commission; a Barrister in the American Inns of Court, Charles Fahy Chapter; and as a member of the Antioch Legal Services Board. His continued commitment to his fellow veterans is evidenced by his active participation as a board member of the National Veterans Legal Services Project, an organization that seeks protection and advancement of veterans’ legal rights and access to legal representation. He was appointed to serve in this capacity by the D.C. Bar.
Judge Diaz is married to the former Martha Ann Ortiz of Hanford, California, and they have two children.