Area Loses Friend, Advocate in Passing of Guitierrez
South Mountain lost a friend, a neighbor, an advocate and an inspiration in Justice of the Peace Pamela Gutierrez, who lost her battle with cancer in August.
Gutierrez served on the bench since 1994 and is remembered for bringing much-needed stability and credibility to a court system then mired in controversy. Two years ago she became a trailblazer of another kind—a reticent but influential voice for African American women battling breast cancer.
“I didn’t want to be in this club,” Gutierrez told the South Mountain District News in October 2006 of her illness. Always the one helping others, she was unaccustomed to asking for it herself. Gutierrez never painted herself a victim.
“I never asked ‘why me?’ but in the process, if I can share my story … my purpose is to get up every day and try to help somebody,” she said.
Last October, Gutierrez participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She also spoke on breast cancer awareness at Arizona State University West.
In 1992, Gutierrez, then a paralegal, decided to run for Miss Black Arizona as a platform to build her public campaign for Justice of the Peace. In 1999, she was appointed by then Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Zlaket to serve three years as a mentor judge of her newly-appointed peers.
Arizona Republic editorial writer Richard de Uriarte dubbed Gutierrez “the woman who cleaned up the court.” On August 14th, de Uriarte wrote that Gutierrez brought “professionalism, dignity and order to South Phoenix Justice Court. In the hard knocks of south Phoenix politics, she was re-elected every time.”
“Judge Gutierrez wanted life to be fair,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon in his eulogy. “She wanted life to be just. And she did her very best to dispense fairness and justice whenever she had the opportunity. And she made sure she had opportunities. It was Pam, in fact, who started several programs to lead juveniles away from crime and to discourage juveniles and adults from driving drunk.”
“In the challenging times in which we live—when we could use a thousand more like Pamela Gutierrez—we lost the only one we had,” Gordon said. “But we had her for a while, didn’t we? And in half the time she should have had—she did twice as much as most people do.”