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, 2005 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.

I am currently serving as Chief Administrative judge for our Consolidated Court. This new position was created by Administrative Order from the Arizona Supreme Court and in 2014, I was honored with being appointed by the Pima County Presiding Judge to serve as the first chief.

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 as the Facilities Manager and finally retired in 1993. My mother passed away in 2012 and I miss her dearly as she was everything I aspire to be as a person.

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 a prosecutor in the Federal Court in Tucson. In 1972, my second son Adam Aguilar was born, who is an excellent cook and has managed many kitchens in Tucson. He continues to pursue his creativity by designing and making beautiful jewelry. My third son Abram Aguilar was born in 1975, and he is now a physician as a hospitalist 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. He is now married to the wonderful and beautiful Perla. Together they produced two beautiful boys Rex and Kai. We spend many happy hours together, and have adventure walks, and adventure trips. I like to take 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 a 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:

  • 1992 – J.D., University of Arizona College of Law.
  • 1991 - B.S., Cum Laude, Business Administration, University of Arizona.
  • 1968 - Tucson High School

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:

  • First Latina woman elected as Justice of the Peace in Tucson.
  • Has been your justice of the peace for 3 terms (12 years).
  • Presiding Judge from 2008 to 2010; Chief Administrative Judge from 2013 to present.
  • Justice of the Peace of the Year for the State of Arizona in 2015.
  • Established Veteran's Court in 2011 for persons who served in the military.
  • Established Animal Welfare Court in 2012 for offenders charged with serious animal and wildlife violations. This is the first in the Country.
  • Domestic Violence judge in the DV Court.
  • Serves on State-wide committees appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Established the Home Detention Program for non-violent offenders so they can continue their employment and provide for themselves and family instead of serving jail time.
  • Community service includes high school, college and law school mock court trial judge, locally, regionally, and nationally.
  • Inducted to the Tucson High School Hall of Fame in 2014.
  • Speaker for the Arizona State Bar, Arizona Judicial Conference and the Arizona Justice of the Peace Association.

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.