Carol Jean Vigil, 61, the first Native American woman to be elected as a state district judge in the United States, died Friday at her home in Tesuque Pueblo, N.M., her family said. She had a number of health problems, her husband, Philip Palmer, said.
She was elected to New Mexico’s 1st Judicial District in 1998. She was also the first pueblo Indian woman to pass the state’s bar examination.
Vigil earned her bachelor’s and law degrees at the University of New Mexico.
She served as assistant state attorney general under Jeff Bingaman, who is now a U.S. senator, and in the mid-1980s went into private practice, her husband said.
As a tribal lawyer for Tesuque Pueblo, she wrote the tribal codes for Tesuque and Taos pueblos, Palmer said.
In 1988, Vigil was hired by the 1st Judicial District, which includes Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties, to be a child support hearing officer. Later she was named special commissioner for domestic violence and mental competency.
She retired from the bench in 2005, citing health reasons.