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West Wing Wiki

Roberto Mendoza is an American jurist and an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed in 2000 by President Josiah Bartlet. He is married to Laura Mendoza and has one young son, Robbie Mendoza.


Mendoza grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He suffered from chronic persistent hepatitis and was unable to drink alcohol, as it would likely kill him.[1] He received his education from P.S. 138 and the City University of New York.


He joined the New York City Police Department in 1965. In the 1970s, while on duty, he was shot in the leg. Instead of receiving full disability, he continued serving for the NYPD at a desk job, and began taking night classes for a law degree.[2]

He left the NYPD in 1976 to become an Assistant DA for Brooklyn. He would go on to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, and eventually be appointed as a Federal District Judge of the Eastern District. As a district judge, Mendoza's rulings were upheld by the Court of Appeals more often than any other judge in the country, which he attributed to being "right most of the time."[2]

Supreme Court Nomination

In 1999, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crouch retired. Mendoza was put on the short list to fill his spot, underneath likely nominee Peyton Cabot Harrison III. Crouch believed Mendoza should have been the frontrunner, and persuaded President Bartlet to reconsider Mendoza for the nomination after Bartlet had all but decided on Harrison. After Harrison was discovered to be against the right to privacy, Bartlet decided to interview Mendoza, claiming to interview him for a spot on the "President's Commission for Hispanic Opportunity". At the meeting, Mendoza was surprised to learn that he was on the short list for the Supreme Court, and honored when Bartlet chose him for the spot.[2]

The White House prepared for an uphill battle on Mendoza's confirmation, and White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler was placed as the person responsible for getting Mendoza confirmed.[2] This was on Simon Blye's list of almost insurmountable things the White House had to accomplish.[3]

After Leo McGarry's alcoholism and drug addiction was discovered, he hoped to maneuver things to cause the least embarrasment in the upcoming Mendoza confirmation.[4]

Mendoza's lack of presence on the Court was made more real after Simon Cruz's appeal for his execution was denied 5-3.[5]

Mendoza had trouble with the tradition of not speaking to the press before a confirmation. Toby Ziegler spent much time trying to keep Mendoza from speaking to the press. While awaiting confirmation, Mendoza publicly criticized the American Bar Association, the AFL-CIO, and the New York state legislature.[1]


Eight weeks after being picked by the President as his Supreme Court nominee, Roberto Mendoza went on vacation with his wife and son in Nova Scotia. While on vacation, he was summoned to the White House to discuss his unprofessional manner, and decided to drive down there. He informed the White House it would take three days, as he planned to stop in Connecticut for antiquing.

While driving through Wesley, Connecticut, Mendoza was pulled over by policeman Sergeant McNamara for driving erratically. He refused to take a breathalyzer test as he believed it was an illegal search. He was placed under arrest for drunk driving in front of his family. This caused him to lash out at the police, prompting further arrests for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.[1]

Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler were sent to release Mendoza, with help from the Governor of Connecticut. They forced the arresting officers to privately apologize to Judge Mendoza, and to his family, and put pressure on them not to file any reports of the incident.[1]

Josh Lyman, who was involved in the third installment of the Marjorie Dupont lecture series for 2000 at the time, promised the attendees that he would tell them the events of the night after the Senate confirmed Mendoza.[1]

Supreme Court Service

Soon afterwards, Mendoza was confirmed by the Senate with very few "nay" votes. This caused celebration at the White House, although Toby was overworked because of it.[6]

Mendoza getting on the Supreme Court was considered the only victory in an entire year by Toby Ziegler.[7]

Mendoza's place on the Court was also on President Bartlet's personal list of accomplishments.[8]

On the Supreme Court, Mendoza was considered by Josh Lyman to have become a centrist, and was at least not as liberal as Chief Justice Roy Ashland.[9] However, conservative Supreme Court nominee Christopher Mulready listed only five centrists (Brannaghan, Hoyt, Clark, Lafeyette and Carmine) in his view of the court, suggesting Mendoza was viewed as a liberal by some.



  • HS Diploma - P.S. 138 in Brooklyn
  • City University of New York


  • 1965-1976 : Police Officer, NYPD
  • 1976-1980 : Assistant District Attorney for Brooklyn
  • 1980-1985 : Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York
  • 1985-2000 : U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York
  • 2000-present : Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Notes and refernces

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Episode 1x15 "Celestial Navigation"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Episode 1x09 "The Short List"
  3. Episode 1x13 "Take Out the Trash Day"
  4. Episode 1x10 "In Excelsis Deo"
  5. Episode 1x14 "Take This Sabbath Day"
  6. Episode 1x18 "Six Meetings Before Lunch"
  7. Episode 1x19 "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet"
  8. Episode 2x22 "Two Cathedrals"
  9. Episode 5x17 "The Supremes"

Supreme Court Justices
Lang (CHIEF) | Brannigan | Carmine | Clark | Dreifort | Hoyt | Lafayette | Mendoza | Mulready
Roy Ashland (CHIEF) | Owen Brady
Joseph Crouch
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court