Mary Murguia
Judge Mary Murguia.jpg
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
December 1, 2021
Preceded bySidney R. Thomas
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
January 4, 2011
Appointed byBarack Obama
Preceded byMichael Daly Hawkins
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
In office
October 13, 2000 – January 4, 2011
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byDiane Humetewa
Personal details
Born (1960-09-06) September 6, 1960 (age 62)
Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.
RelativesJanet Murguía (sister)
Carlos Murguia (brother)
EducationUniversity of Kansas (BA, BS, JD)

Mary Helen Murguia (born September 6, 1960) is the Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Her chambers are located in Phoenix, Arizona.

Early life and education

Murguia is one of seven children of Alfred and Amalia Murguia, who emigrated from Mexico in 1950.[1] She was born in 1960 in Kansas City, Kansas.[2] Murguia was raised in the Kansas City community of Argentine.[1]

Murguia earned two bachelor's degrees (a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science) from the University of Kansas in 1982. She then earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas Law School in 1985.[2]

Professional career

Murguia served as an assistant district attorney of Wyandotte County, Kansas, from 1985 until 1990.[2] From 1990 until 2000, Murguia served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, and concurrently served in the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys from 1998 until 2000.[2] She was counsel to the director's staff from 1998 until 1999, and the principal deputy director in 1999. She was a director from 1999 until 2000.[2]

Federal judicial service

District court service

On July 21, 2000, President Clinton nominated Murguia to a new seat on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona that was created by 113 Stat. 1501.[2] The United States Senate confirmed Murguia on October 3, 2000, and she received her commission on October 13, 2000.[2]

Court of appeals service

On March 25, 2010, President Obama nominated Murguia to a fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that was created by the decision by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins to assume senior status.[3] On December 22, 2010, she was confirmed by the United States Senate by a vote of 89–0.[4] On January 4, 2011, she received her commission and took the oath of office.[5] She became Chief Judge on December 1, 2021.[6]

She had been suggested as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court in Obama's second term.[7]

Notable rulings

Elton Simpson case

See also: Curtis Culwell Center attack

On March 14, 2011, Murguia acquitted Elton Simpson of making a false statement to federal agents involving terrorism, and released him on probation with a minor fine for lesser charges.[8] Simpson had allegedly lied to FBI agents about his intent to travel to Somalia to join up with terrorist groups to kill non-Muslims, but Murguia declined to enhance his sentence based on the government's evidence. Four years later, Simpson was one of two terrorists who attacked a free speech event in Texas, injuring an unarmed security guard and being killed in the process. Evidence indicated that after Murguia released him, Simpson became involved with the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who immediately after the attack claimed Simpson was a "soldier for the caliphate".[9]

Melendres v. Arpaio

Murguia recused herself from the federal racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in February 2009. Arpaio's attorneys alleged Murguia had, "...a natural, personal bias in favor of the Plaintiffs," based upon her sister's leadership of National Council of La Raza, which has been highly critical of Arpaio.[10]

The Melendres case was reassigned. In May 2013, Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio had indeed engaged in racial profiling. In 2014, Snow found Arpaio had violated court orders addressing cessation of racial profiling, and began proceedings to hold Arpaio in contempt of court. Arpaio has also accused Snow of bias, and initiated previously-secret investigations into the alleged bias.[11]

The United States of America v. Victor Manuel Raya-Vaca

In 2014, a case was brought by the United States of America against Raya-Vaca, on the grounds of illegal entry, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed that the defendant was judged with bias and therefore reversed the lower court’s opinion.[12] Judge Murguia wrote in the opinion that Raya-Vaca was the victim of bias and that the government had acted without due process of his rights and therefore the legal grounds for his ejection were not a solid legal basis for his removal.[12]

Jesse James Andrews v. Ron Davis

In 2018, this en banc case held that Jesse Andrew did not receive proper constitutionally granted counsel during the first phase of the legal system.[13] Initially, Andrews was raised in a segregated and poverty-stricken area of Mobile, Alabama at a school that has since been shuddered based on their violations of the Eighth Amendment.[13] Because of this, Murguia wrote that mitigating information was not told to the court and therefore the death penalty should not be judged by those standards.[13]

Elen Grigoryan; Sirun Harutuyunyan: Artavazd Grigoryan: Karen Grigoryan v. William P.

In 2019, Judge Murguia and the panel of judges ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals violated the petitioners’ rights as immigrants.[14] The violation concerned the actions that the government took that disabused the plaintiffs’ rights of due process before their status was terminated.[14] The basis of this decision was supported by the fact that the Board did not provide “sufficient” information to the Plaintiffs.[14] Judge Murguia wrote that even though they were in the U.S. for fourteen years, they were not judged fairly and given the proper information and denied their relief of deportation based on a single page that didn’t hold up under scrutiny.[14]     

Ashley Judd v. Harvey Weinstein

In the 2020 opinion written by Judge Murguia for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, she and her fellow judges overturned the lower court’s ruling since they deemed an incorrect application of statutes since her case was thrown out.[15] Based on statute. Cal. Civ. Code § 51.9(a)(1)(F) (1996), the panel headed by Murguia ruled that their relationship constituted by the statute and therefore Weinstein was suited to use his leverage to allegedly abuse the plaintiff.[15] This ruling and the following opinion reversed the ruling from the Supreme Court of California. This case was also instrumental to the cohesion of the Me Too movement as well.[15]


Murguia's twin sister is noted civil rights leader Janet Murguía, while her older brother, Carlos Murguia, was a United States district judge.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b Manny Lopez, Raising the Bar, Kansas City Business Journal (February 11, 2001).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Murguia, Mary Helen – Federal Judicial Center".
  3. ^ "Former DOJ Official Picked for 9th Circuit". Legal Times. 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
  4. ^ U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress – 2nd Session, Vote Number 299: Confirmation Mary Helen Murgia, (December 22, 2010).
  5. ^ "Court's Newest Judge Takes Oath of Office". US Courts for the Ninth Circuit Announcements. January 5, 2011.
  6. ^ "Gavel Passing Brings New Chief Judge to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals" (PDF). Public Information Office. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. December 1, 2021. Retrieved December 2, 2021.
  7. ^ Greg, Stohr (November 8, 2012). "Obama's Victory Creates New Chance to Mold U.S. Supreme Court". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  8. ^ Volokh, Eugene (May 4, 2015). "Why Elton Simpson, one of the Texas shooters, had been acquitted of an earlier terrorism-related offense". Washington Post.
  9. ^ Shane, Scott (May 5, 2015). "Texas Attacker Left Trail of Extremist Ideas on Twitter". New York Times.
  10. ^ Lemons, Stephen. "Joe Arpaio Scores: Judge Mary Murguia Recuses Self From Racial Profiling Lawsuit Against Joe Arpaio". Phoenix New Times. Village Voice Media. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  11. ^ Kiefer, Michael. "Murray Snow: The man judging Sheriff Joe". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  12. ^ a b Ninth Circuit, and Mary Murguia, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. VICTOR MANUEL RAYA-VACA § (2014).
  13. ^ a b c Ninth Circuit, and Mary Murguia, JESSE JAMES ANDREWS v. RON DAVIS § (2018).
  15. ^ a b c Ninth Circuit, and Mary Murguia, ASHLEY JUDD v. HARVEY WEINSTEIN § (2020).
  16. ^ "106 Senate Hearings". From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012.


Legal offices New seat Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona 2000–2011 Succeeded byDiane Humetewa Preceded byMichael Daly Hawkins Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 2011–present Incumbent Preceded bySidney R. Thomas Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 2021–present