Frances Muñoz, first Latina trial judge in California, dies at 92
(Los Angeles Times) In 1965, her first job, working as a clerk at the Santa Monica branch of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Frances Muñoz became the youngest judge to preside over family court.
Since then, her appointment to the Santa Monica Superior Court became one of only 28 women to preside over a criminal court in the history of the United States.
Muñoz, who was also the first Latina to serve on the Santa Monica Superior Court, died Jan. 14 at HarborCity Medical Center in Torrance following a year-long battle with cancer. She was 92.
“Our community was very fond of her,” said Judge Michael Martinez, one of five Latinos who sit on the California Supreme Court and on the California Court of Appeals.
“She was a wonderful and vibrant woman,” said Judge Michael S. Martinez of Santa Monica.
Martinez and other legal and judicial experts said the last thing Muñoz wanted was for her family to receive attention for her death.
“It is one of the kindest things I have ever heard in my life,” said Robert A. Nersesian, president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. “This woman had a tremendous sense of humor and a wonderful way of conducting herself.”
That she was a woman is an additional honor, they said.
“That was very unusual in those days,” said John D. McDonough, a law professor and former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. “When we look at the list of judges of all parties, we find that women made up only 13 percent, if that, of those judges. That tells us something about our culture.”
The Santa Monica Superior Court is one of four Superior Courts in California that is located in an L.A. County city.
Muñoz, who was born June 4, 1931, as Frances Luper Martinez in Ponce, Puerto Rico, was the youngest of eight children born to a Jewish immigrant of German and Puerto