Introduction

My name is Maria L. Felix, and I am proud to be the first Mexican-American woman elected by voters in Tucson, Arizona to serve as Justice of the Peace in Pima County. Thanks to all of you who voted for me. I have been in office since January 1, 2004 and so very proud to serve my community.

As of April 2008, I was elected to serve as Presiding Judge of the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court to complete that term vacated by Judge James Angiulo, who retired as a result of a terminal illness. His death in February, 2009 impacted us greatly and I shall greatly miss my very good friend, colleague and mentor.

Effective January 1, 2009, I was elected by the other Justices of the Peace to serve a two-year term as Presiding Judge. I thus reached another pinnacle as the first Mexican-American woman to be presiding judge of any court in Pima County. I am honored, humbled and vow to serve professionally, ethically, and responsibly.

PERSONAL:

I was born in Douglas, Arizona to Rafael and Eva Gallego. We moved to Tucson when I was five years old and I have a sister, Mirna Gallego and brother, Rafael Gallego. My sister is a court interpreter and my brother is a defense attorney, so we are all in the court system. We are first generation American citizens, and our parents are so very proud to be naturalized citizens in this country. My father retired from Magma Copper Mines in San Manuel, Arizona, commuting from Tucson for 30 years. He thereafter worked at University Medical Center in Facilities Manager and finally retired in 1993. My mother was the homemaker and now considers herself retired from that exhausting career.

I went to Tucson High School and graduated in 1968. I married in 1969 and had my first son that same year, Art Aguilar, who is now an attorney practicing civil litigation. In 1972, my second son Adam Aguilar was born, who is an excellent cook and has managed many kitchens in Tucson. My third son Abram Aguilar was born in 1975, and he is now a physician at Northwest Medical Center in Internal Medicine. Needless to say, these three sons are my heart and soul and I am ever so proud of them and their accomplishments.

Art married the wonderful and beautiful Debbie, and they have given me two of the most beautiful grandchildren, Andres born in 1999 and Alyssa born in 2003. Abram has given me my third most beautiful granddaughter, Amaya, born in 2001. We spend many happy hours together, and have adventure walks, and adventure trips. Last summer, I took my three grandchildren on adventure lunches to explore different menus from around the world and pretended we were actually visiting China, France, Italy, India and Mexico. Their most vivid adventure lunch was trying escargot in the French restaurant; that was memorable!

I was a single parent from 1999 to 2003. In April of 2003, my first high school sweetheart got in touch with me through the internet on “Classmates.” He was living in Lakeside, Arizona in the White Mountains. I had not seen him since the late 1970’s and we decided to meet in May, and five months later we were married. Gilbert Felix and I are the happiest couple I know; he was my first love, and will be my last love.

Because of him, I have that wonderful name “Maria Felix” who so many of my constituents know is the same name belonging to a very famous Mexican movie star, comparable in stature and talent to our Elizabeth Taylor. That is as close as I will get to my claim to fame.

EDUCATION:

  • 1991 - B.S., Cum Laude, Business Administration, University of Arizona.
  • 1992 – J.D., University of Arizona College of Law.

ATTORNEY PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:

  • 1/05 to present: Justice of the Peace, elected official, Pima County Consolidated Courts
  • 11/96 – 12/04: Justice of the Peace, pro tem, appointed position
  • 11/96 - 12/04: Law Offices of Maria Lilia Felix, P.C. (previously Law Offices of Maria Lilia Aguilar, P.C.).
  • 1996 – 6/01: University of Arizona & Southern Arizona Legal Aid Domestic Violence Project, instructor.
  • 9/96 – 11/96: Jacoby & Meyers, staff attorney
  • 3/96 - 9/96: Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation – Prosecutor

COURT EXPERIENCE:

Since 2004 when I began my term as elected judge, I have trained extensively taking advantage of all judicial continuing education classes. The courtroom itself is a daily educational process, and I am so pleased to see that my style, my background, my history and my education are all used in my decisions.

In 2006, I served in the Committee to hire pro tem judges and learned the difficulty in getting qualified people to serve on the bench on an as-needed basis. The Arizona Justice Courts are rather exclusive in that our judges, whether elected to the bench or appointed as pro tems, do not have to have a lawyer’s degree.

In 2007, Judge Jack Peyton and I went to an exhausting, comprehensive, all-consuming and difficult educational conference for judges to establish a domestic violence court here at Justice Court. Data is still being gathered since it was just instituted, but we have no doubt it will make a positive difference in Pima County.

I am also currently serving in a Committee overseeing the design of the new Courthouse building, which will be shared with Tucson Municipal Court and expected to open sometime in 2010. That has also served to educate me in the future of our courtrooms, and the future needs of Pima County as its population grows and the need for more courtrooms is required. Recognizing the future needs and balancing it with cost effective responsibility is ever present.

I was appointed by Chief Justice McGregor, Arizona Supreme Court, to serve on the Committee on Limited Jurisdiction Courts effective 2009. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this Committee.

PHILOSOPHY:

I was asked years ago if I had any regrets. I took that question to heart and thought about it for days. Yes, I had the one regret that I never accepted the full scholarship I was offered as a Tucson High School graduate to the University of Arizona. I then thought whether or not I could remedy that regret. Yes, I could. At 38 years old, I quit my job at University Medical Center, cashed in my retirement and IRA, and enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Arizona. My sons Art and Adam were already enrolled there full time. We managed to all go to the U of A, depleted my funds, finished on scholarships and assistance from my parents, and graduated.

Moral: Do not live your life with any regrets.

How does this help me in court? On the criminal side, we only hear misdemeanor criminal cases in this court of limited jurisdiction, and most of the defendants recognize the error they have made, accept responsibility and are very remorseful. They manage to be in full compliance with their sentence and place that error behind them, learn from the experience, and move on. I trust that they have no regrets and that their future will be positive.

On the civil side, same thing in that people have to take responsibility, place the appropriate responsibility on others and pick their legal battles wisely and without regrets.

Life is truly a learning experience, and I cherish every moment.