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Profile on Judge Federico P. Aguirre

The Honorable Judge Federico P. Aguirre, is a Superior Court Judge for Orange County, California.

Outstanding Personality of the Month

The grandson of Mexican immigrants and the son of a courageous community activist, Rick Aguirre is an exemplary son, protective brother, avid student, as well as a lawyer, historian, and a Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County.

Attorney Frederick Aguirre has exercised the legal profession for more than 30 years, and was appointed Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County in 2002 by then-Governor Gray Davis

He is also the cofounder and ex-President of the Hispanic Association of Lawyers of Orange County; Founder of the Leadership Academy of the Superior Court and he functions as its Vice President and President of Latino Activist for Education, Inc. He is responsible, studious and an avid reader; from the time he was a child he knew good grades would give him the opportunities to continue his higher education and he exceeded. He is a graduate from University of Southern California (USC) in history and has a law degree from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). He was raised full of pride and love for his country, led by his father and uncles, war veterans. His greatest legacy is his detailed and exhaustive research on the lives of these brave Latinos and their need to be exalted for their contributions in the book Mexican-American Patriots, published in collaboration with his wife and a historian friend. He was awarded Judge of the Year by the Association of Hispanic Lawyers of Orange County; he received the Spiritual Prize for Judicial Service, by the Latino Legislative Committee in Sacramento and he is recorded in the Hall of Fame of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District and many more.

“Judge Aguirre has a strong history of serving Orange County, with a special interest in veterans affairs. Judge Aguirre reminds us of the sacrifices veterans made for our country’s freedom. Judge Aguirre reminds us that these heroes are among us. They are our neighbors, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, and family members.” -Senator Lou Correa

Frederick P. Aguirre was born in Fullerton in August of 1946 and he is the eldest of seven siblings. His father Alfredo Aguirre, was born in Placentia and his mother Julia, in Colorado. “They met and were married in 1944. My father worked at Vultee Aircraft in Downey and my mother, at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, both sites were producing airplane parts for the war. Shortly after marrying, his father was called to serve in World War II and he was sent to Okinawa on April 1, 1945 where he remained three months at battle and returned home after nearly a year,” says Aguirre.

Shortly after his return Rick was born. His parents have lived in Placentia all of his life; his father died recently, he was 87; his mother died years earlier. Allan, his younger brother taught in Riverside and died recently. His youngest brother Cory, is a lawyer and works in Fullerton; next is Dina, his sister who is a secretary at Fullerton College; Roy is an architect and works for a Newport Beach firm; Leo works for the city of Anaheim and is supervisor for its maintenance department and his youngest sister, Monica works as a wedding planner at Disneyland and several Marriott Hotels. “All my siblings have university degrees- our parents gave us a very solid upbringing and emphasized a good education,” he says proudly.

Do you have some memories when you were little?

I was four and a half years older than my brother Allan and I was influenced by my bigger cousins and my parents of course, who gave me support and encouragement for me to do well in school. I remember how much I struggled in grammar school to do better in the classroom, my activities, homework and tests, even though I enjoyed much athletic competition. I was involved in all kinds of sports but not ceased to be competitive also in school. I studied hard, read a lot, and during the summers I walked from my house to the library, chose books and read them. There was a reading contest during the holidays, the kids who read more books received a prize at the end of summer, I did this from second to fifth grade. This helped me a lot because reading is very important when you’re growing, reading made me understand many things besides transported me to other countries. I read historical books, cowboys, adventures, about our society, I was fascinated!

What did the family do for summer vacations?

Every summer we went somewhere- one year we went to San Francisco, Yosemite a couple of times, Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon. When I was nine we travelled to Mexico by car- we took my grandmother who had not been back since 1918. We travelled through Michoacan where she was raised, and she met some of her cousins; she visited with old friends and people she had not seen for 40 or 50 years. It was an unforgettable experience. We went to Tijuana frequently to spend the day, and to San Diego and Sea World, we went to beaches and we went camping.

Was there someone who inspired you while you were growing up?

There were many, primarily teachers- Mrs. Baker in the 6th grade; she was from Texas and about 22, she had recently graduated and this was probably her first teaching assignment; she looked about 18. She prompted the students from our class to nominate me for student president. I was very active in sports, at noon I played baseball, football, basketball or volleyball then I’d return to class all sweaty to continue with the rest of the curriculum. I did well in school but I didn’t try to be student leader. Someone nominated a girl in our class, but the teacher insisted my classmates nominate me and they took her advice. I didn’t win, I came in second, I was the Vice President of the school, and in Jr. High I was again nominated and again did not win. It wasn’t until the 9th grade that I won the election and so all of a sudden I found myself participating in meetings of the student council with representatives from throughout the school. I learned how the student government worked. We attended a meeting of the student council with members from other schools at Garden Grove High School, GGHS, we were representing our school Valencia High School. We were interested in learning how to become better student leaders and how to handle thing that came up on a daily basis. GGHS put on a play where a male student appeared as a woman in her 50’s, wearing a great big hat and a very flashy dress- quite a personality. I asked who that crazy student actor was and someone answered, Steve Martin. Martin was born and raised in Garden Grove and was two years older than I- he was very funny and everybody knew him. I was told he worked at Disneyland in the Magic Department.

“In high school I heard about scholarships and decided to pursue a university education. My father worked construction; he had seven children, and I could only go to the university on a scholarship. In 1964 Cal State Fullerton was barely being built- the closest university was Long Beach State, and needless to say, we had community colleges. My aunts, uncles and cousins went to Fullerton College, my home was two miles away, but I wanted to go to a university. So I studied a lot more to get good grades and make straight A’s making certain to earn a scholarship.

I was elected president of the student body my senior year, and I was also a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens Jr. (LULAC). My father was one of the founding members of LULAC Junior for the city- we were 30 kids. My senior year I was president of LULAC Jr. There were about 100 such groups throughout the country. We had a national convention with senior LULAC. If they had a regular convention in Albuquerque or Phoenix or El Paso, we also had ours there. I sent letters to those councils and maintained communication; we had fund-raising functions- we assisted the community, we washed cars and other activities. This was a good training ground for me regarding organizations, public speaking and others,” says Aguirre.

“Judge Fred Aguirre is a unique person. His love for young people, their education and their future; love also for war veterans, their families, their sacrifices and contributions, have no limit. By profession he is a person with authority, but by their intelligence, heart and soul, it is a highly respected being and a true leader. He is proud of his family and our community. It is an honor to work with judge Fred Aguirre to help the community”- Francisco J. Barragan, CPA, CIA

What caused your profound feelings of justice and patriotism beginning in your childhood?

My father’s best friend was Ruben Abraham, a Jewish boy from New Jersey who was bullied and called “the dirty, little Jew.” That man was brilliant, and my dad enjoyed his company and didn’t like his being made fun of. My father knew well what it was like to be segregated. 23 men from our family served in World War II and there’s another list of those who went to Korea. I was raised surrounded by these family members who defended the country and it was natural to be immersed in patriotism and love for our country.  My grandfather, Jose Aguirre, was from Mexico and very proud of his country. He often wore a suit, and was one of the principle organizers for celebrating the 16th of September in this country. He had a barbers’ license in Placentia in 1933- and he spoke English. My grandfather died in 1934 when my father was only 14, but he left an impression of patriotism and loyalty to this generous country for all the family’s descendants.

“Those born here of Mexican roots feel very proud to be American in spite of many sacrifices, segregations, discrimination and other injustices lived. But we were able to adapt and also be a part of this country’s legacy,” says Aguirre.

Dick Hanna, Orange County Congressman in those days, who knew his father well, offered to recommend him to West Point and added that the schooling would be totally paid for. “I thought about it a lot but decided this was not the school for me. I didn’t want to leave my family for four years and then again for six more- because upon graduation I was obligated to serve in the Army for six more years. I wanted my siblings to watch me register at the university, be on campus, in the dormitory, motivate them to do the same,” says Aguirre.

Even his 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Barker suggested he apply to Dartmouth College where her husband graduated, and recommended a scholarship. He applied and was given a complete scholarship. But he didn’t want to leave his siblings. He then applied for a scholarship for USC in Orange County, a very prominent university known worldwide; but there were no Mexicans or Mexican-Americans- there were only a couple of Japanese-Americans and everyone else was European-American. “I was given a scholarship and my dream of continuing in the university materialized. After I graduated I went to UCLA Law School who offered me a complete scholarship, along with Berkley and USC; but I went with UCLA. Besides, I met the woman who would be my wife, Linda Martinez, in 1971. She was studying to become a teacher and we took the same Chicano Studies class, we met and later married,” he says happily.

Rick Aguirre’s kind smile and contagious peace despite his demanding work and many community activities, has formed an exemplary family along with his wife, Linda; they both enjoy the time they spend with their children, Mike- 31, Brian- 26 and Veronica- 22. Besides, Aguirre likes to play the piano, he plays handball three times a week- very good exercise for reducing stress; he enjoys the math game of aiming the ball at different angles; he loves reading, and he does some gardening; he lives with his wife on a half acre and “the gardeners only mow and blow the lawn,” he says contentedly.

Why did you choose to study law?

As a boy I wanted to be a doctor. My mother had seven children; she was forever going to the gynecologist, always talking about medicine with her in-laws, my aunts. They talked about their children, their coughs, flues and illnesses; they talked about good and bad doctors. There were no doctors in the family- only two older cousins said they would become doctors- one wanted to be a pharmacist but he had to go to work when his wife got pregnant so he was never able to do it. My father said I was doing so well in school that I could become a doctor. But I felt a great inclination towards law, especially when I started to go to LULAC meetings and I listened to the presentations by lawyers; I also heard my father talk about how much they had influenced his life.

In those days Hispanics, Afro-Americans and Japanese-Americans were segregated. But during World War II more than 500,000 Mexican-Americans were enlisted as whites. His father was among them. His uniform was the same as the whites; the Afro-Americans and Japanese-Americans wore a different uniform. His father told him that while they lived all together he competed with them and realized they were on the same level in sports, math, everything. He realized he was not inferior to them as they had told him in school. But he was sorry he only reached the 9th grade since he had to go to work to help support his siblings when his father died.

When his father returned from the war he said, “Just a minute! We gave our lives for this country and when we return they again send us to segregated schools, restaurants, hotels, restrictions to buy a home and other discriminating policies against us?

He organized a group of veterans from WWII and the Korean War and citizens of Placentia to begin a school meeting asking for integration. Placentia was not aware of the case Mendez vs. Westminster litigated in Los Angeles- the press hardly mentioned this accomplishment. In 1946 it was decided that it was unconstitutional to segregate Mexican-American students and in 1947 the decision was made public. Upon learning this, his father asked the priest to recommend a lawyer from another county and he directed him to the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. During the consultation he offered to pay him to sue the school district using the Mendez vs. Westminster decision. The lawyer advised him to first consult with the school district council regarding his decision to sue. The school district, under threat of the suit, integrated the schools in 1949.

I was able to go to an integrated school since Kindergarten 1951,” says Aguirre proudly.

To the Honorable Rick Aguirre, “Thank you from all of us for never veering from your dedication to the Latino community, for organizing projects and events to share our history and contributions to the United States.  You project all that is good about us, intelligence, strength of character, creativity, and a willingness to work . . . hard.” -Mimi Lozano, historian and publisher of Somos Primos.

Nobody has completed such an exhaustive work as the lawyer, judge and historian, Frederick P. Aguirre with his wife, Linda Martinez Aguirre, teacher and historian and Rogelio C. Rodriguez, engineer- who joined to publish the book Mexican-American Patriots, in which they have gathered and documented in detail the lives of more than 1200 Latino veterans who fought in the first and second world wars, Vietnam, Korea and now Afghanistan and Iraq.

During the first and second world wars, and Korea, Mexican-Americans were counted as whites and were not recognized as Latino. According to statistics from the Department of Defense and the Veterans Association, there were 18 million Americans and one million Afro-Americans enlisted in World War II; 500,000 Latinos were counted as white. To discover approximately how many Latinos participated in World War II all 18 million names were studied and the Latino names extracted although there are many, such as the past president of Mexico, Fox or Anthony Quinn who don’t have Latino names. Three million names were studied from the Korean war to extract Latinos and those who became officers such as lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, and generals, and how many received honors; how many were wounded in action; how many received the purple heart; how many died; how many were prisoners of war, etc. “Documenting this has been a tough job because we did it without funding, it was all volunteer work on our own time,” says Aguirre.

Mexican-American Patriots was first published as a book, but now there’s a CD with more than 3,000 images and 1200 stories about Latinos. It covers facts about 10,000 Latinos who died in the war. “The universities should include this information in their curriculum, not to recognize the troops, not to support them or endorse them, but to demonstrate the contribution made by Latinos since the American Revolution,” emphasizes Aguirre. He adds, “The objective of our labor is not to glorify war or provide military solutions to international affairs. We are not partisans of encouraging Latino youth to become part of the military forces. Nevertheless, we are extremely proud of our veterans and our political legacy in the United States. Due recognition to our Latino patriots is not included in school books where our children are educated, or in documentaries, television or the written press.”

Among his many contributions, Rick Aguirre was co-founder and ex President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County; founder of the Superior Court’s Leadership Academy and Co-Chairman from 2007 to Present; co-founder of Latino Advocates for Education, Inc. and to present; co-founder of the Bradford Square in Placentia, with 92 homes for seniors, built at a cost of $5 million in 1986; Delegate from the Orange County Bar Association to the State Bar Conventions. He has served as member of the Board of Directors of the Orange County: Trial Lawyers Association; Placentia Linda Hospital and ex-Chairman; Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County; Foundation of KOCE-TV and many others.

The lawyer Frederick Aguirre was named Superior Court Judge of Orange County in 2002 by the then governor Gray Davis. In California there are about 2000 judges, in Orange County there are more than 150, the Supreme Court has several judicial centers, the North Justice Center of Fullerton is one of them and that is where Judge Aguirre is located. In each of those centers the judges hear traffic, civil and criminal cases.

“In this center we have a traffic department, there are four or five judges who mange general cases, this could be a criminal or civil case and the hearings are preliminary, meaning they are auditions which take place before the hearing to determine if there is a cause to continue. The other judges manage large calendars; I have a large calendar of civil cases; we have about 1000 civil cases per month and another 1000 small claims. Some I send to trial, others are heard here and others are not heard because they are resolved or both parties fail to appear. These 2000 cases a month take a lot of time for the preparation of documents needed for each of them. Criminal cases are heard in the assigning court, which could be a felony or misdemeanor and they can declare innocent or guilty. “We have hundreds of these cases every day, probably one hundred are in custody and two or three hundred are not. The respondents come up to four times before the hearing for these cases- that’s why these courts are always full. In addition I’m the guard judge every two weeks, I need to be here from 8 to 5 to hear, receive, read any documentation coming from police officers and find good reasons to expedite an order of arrest or a search warrant of their property, vehicle, computer, etc.” says Aguirre.

His chambers is a place of refuge where he works on the mountains of cases he sees daily, when court is not in session. This is also where he treasures a great part of his history, old photos of his ancestors and his family. He passes on his devotion when he explains each photo in detail; with each piece, he transports us magically to a time that was. Among the objects he owns, he shows us a flag draped on the Pentagon in Washington DC September 11, 2007, six years after the terrorist attack of 2001.

“This flag was given to me by my cousin, Sergeant Christopher Miranda Braman, who was destined to be at the Pentagon when the terrorist plane crashed, exactly at the wing where his office was. Evacuation orders were given immediately; the building was in flames and the airplane fuel covered the halls with an intense smoke which was blinding. Once outside, Christopher realized there were more people in the building. He returned immediately to help them out, some already dead, but many were saved thanks to his courage and bravery. He continued to help people out until the firemen arrived with the proper equipment; he continued working for 72 hours without resting and helped about 62 out.  The Washington Post has a picture of him exiting the building, three days after the tragedy. Because of his courage he was given several medals, a purple heart and a Presidential Commemoration and the Pentagon minted a coin in his honor. I don’t know of another person, only presidents, who have a coin minted in their honor. It fills me with pride to have someone in my family who is a hero as he is,” Aguirre says proudly.

But this hero and all the others who gave their lives to defend our country, come out of anonymity and with fervor, they are honored each year in a ceremony offered by the association, Latino Activists for Education, Inc. created with his wife and a friend, to demonstrate the innumerable contributions made by Latinos in this country from the time of its origin. www.latinoadvocates.org

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