2016 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Hon. Mary H. Murguia

Judge Mary Helen MurguiaJ. C. Harmon High School, 1978

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Emerson Elementary, Argentine Middle

United States Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia remembers hearing her parents often say, “Aquí, en este país, el sol brilla para todos.”  The translation is “Here in this country, the sun shines for all.” As a youngster growing up in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kansas, she took to heart the words of her parents and embarked on a path to make this a realization in her life. “They saw that they, and most importantly their children, could advance here by working hard because this country is a land of opportunity.  My parents recognized that this country afforded them a fair and level playing field, and they strongly supported and encouraged me and my siblings to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available,” said Judge Murguia. 

Judge Murguia is an example that hard work does pay off. She was confirmed as a federal district court judge in October, 2000 making her the first Latina to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.  She served in that capacity until January of 2011, when she was appointed to her current position as a United States circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Judge Murguia is a former state and federal prosecutor. In 1985, she began her career as an assistant district attorney at the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office in Kansas City, Kansas. She was responsible for all aspects of felony criminal prosecution with emphasis on sex crimes and child abuse. During her tenure, she tried over 40 state felony jury trials to verdict.

In September of 1990, Judge Murguia was appointed as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Arizona. She was responsible for all aspects of federal felony criminal prosecutions and appeals with an emphasis on violent crime. She tried over 25 federal felony cases to verdict and represented the United States Department of Justice in several cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

She served as criminal deputy chief from November 1994 to August 1998, where she was responsible for her own caseload and the direct supervision of the Violent Crime Unit. 

In August 1998, Judge Murguia served as counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys at the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. She served as counsel to the  director providing guidance and counsel to the director and the attorney general’s Advisory Committee on various law enforcement issues and policy initiatives at the Department of Justice.

In September 1999, Judge Murguia was appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno to serve as director for the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, for the Department of Justice. In that capacity, Judge Murguia provided oversight of and support to the 94 offices of the United States attorneys, approximately 5,000 assistant United States attorneys, and approximately 5,000 support staff employees and served as the primary liaison between the United States attorneys and the attorney general, deputy attorney general, the department’s legal divisions, and other department components.

In providing this support and oversight, Judge Murguia supervised 22 staff members comprised of approximately 270 employees and was responsible for the administration of and appropriation of over $1 billion.

She has a bachelor’s degree in both journalism and Spanish and a juris doctorate degree, all from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Her advice to students: “Work hard, study and do the best you can. Be as positive as possible in all matters, especially when dealing with other people.”