Margarita Bernal

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Bernal, John M. & Bernal, Yolanda & Bernal , Margarita & Hora, Peggy & Jaksha, David & Patricia & Pearmain, Elizabeth C. & Rojo, Ruby M. & West, Jane A. & Whitman, Donna & Valenzuela, Frank
Date submitted: May 30, 2013
Gift: Engraved Paver, Large


Judge Bernal has been a municipal court judge in Tucson, Arizona, since September 1985, She specialized in criminal and public access litigation and immigration law during her seven years of practicing law. As a child of immigrants from Mexico, Judge Bernal is a first generation American and former public housing resident and a Legal Aid honor student Reginald Heber Smith Fellow. Judge Bernal was one of eight minority students to graduate from the University of Arizona college of Law in 1979. Judge Bernal graduated with honors, received her B.A. and J.D. from the University of Arizona. After seven years of practice, Judge Bernal was appointed as the first Latina to serve as a municipal court judge in Tucson, Arizona, a community sixty miles from the U.S./Mexico border.

A continuing legal and judicial educator, Judge Bernal has taught over 100 courses on various subjects such as DUI, new case updates, court seminars for new judges, domestic violence courses, and minority diversity for the Arizona Supreme Court, including the New Judges Orientation and the State Bar of Arizona. From 1989-1999, Judge Bernal has served as a chairperson of the Judicial Intervention Committee of the Southern Arizona Task Force on Domestic Violence. She has taught domestic violence at the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy since February 1993. She is founding member of a countrywide task force on domestic violence. She is past vice-chair of the Arizona State Bar Committee on Minorities and Women, and chairperson on mentor (new judge) orientation for the Arizona Judicial College. Judge Bernal has published several articles on minority recruitment in local bar journals, The Writ, and the State Bar of Arizona's journal on their annual convention (Summer 1992). Judge Bernal recently participated in a national forum on behalf of the National Association of Women Judges on expert testimony in cases of battering. She was chair of the 1999 Annual Judges Conference for Arizona Judges.

In 1998 she served as faculty for the National Center for State Courts U.S./Mexico Judges Conference. Judge Bernal has received numerous county bar awards in 1992 and 1996. In 2003 Judge Bernal received "Trainer of the Year" from the Arizona Supreme Court and was recognized by the Pima County Sherriff for her work in alleviating jail overcrowding through improved court processing of in-custody defendants. She is a recipient of numerous grants for her work with juvenile offenders and was co-founder of a summer youth program called "Courts Are Us" for at risk children. In 2005, Judge Bernal was elected as Secretary of the American Bar Association Special Courts Conference. She served as Chairperson of the Special Courts Conference of the Judicial Division in 2008-2009. She is an alumna of the National Judicial College and joined its faculty 1992-present.

Judge Bernal retired in December 2011 and now practices criminal defense litigation in the United States District Court of Arizona and the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Bernal is married and lives in Tucson, Arizona.