Christina Cabanillas

Part-time Professor of Practice
Christina Cabanillas


  • J.D. University of Arizona College of Law
  • B.A. Arizona State University

Work Experience

  • Assistant United States Attorney 
    U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
    • Positions Held:  Senior Litigation Counsel, Appellate Chief, Deputy Appellate Chief, Appellate Attorney, International Coordinator, Trial Attorney (Criminal Division)
  • Assistant Director of Office of Legal Education (Criminal Programs)
    Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Department of Justice 
    2017–2018 (Detail)
  • Professor of Practice, Advanced Legal Writing, Legal Writing, and Appellate Advocacy
    James E. Rogers College of Law
    2002, 2005, 2019, 2021–present
  • Adjunct Faculty, Legal Writing and Legal Research
    Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
    1994–1995, 1997–2001
  • Deputy Pima County Attorney, Chief of Criminal Appeals and Research
    Pima County Attorney's Office, Tucson, Arizona
  • Law Clerk, Criminal Division
    Pima County Attorney’s Office, Tucson, Arizona
  • Summer Law Clerk, U.S. Attorney’s Office
    U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tucson, Arizona

Admitted to Practice

  • United States Supreme Court 
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • District of Arizona
  • Arizona

Publications (Pro Bono)

  • Search & Seizure: A Practice Manual (State Bar of Ariz., 3d Ed. 2023).
  • Confessions: A Practice Manual (State Bar of Ariz., 2023).
  • Reentry After Deportation/Removal, in Immigration Law, Office of Legal Educ., U.S. Dept. of Justice (4th ed. 2005).
  • Arizona DUI Trial Notebook (State Bar of Ariz., 2d ed. 2005) (co-author).

Awards & Distinctions

  • John M. Roll Criminal Justice Award, Pima County Bar Association (2019) (inaugural co-recipient; given to a PCBA member who has, during his or her career, “demonstrated a strong commitment to public service, the highest standards of professionalism, innovation, and selfless dedication to the improvement of the criminal justice system as a prosecutor”)
  • United States Attorney’s Distinguished Service Award, District of Arizona (2019)
  • Award of Appreciation for Exceptional Performance as Assistant Director of Office of Legal Education, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (2018)
  • Arizona’s Finest Lawyers, George E. Lyons Mentor Award (2015) (for excellence in mentoring University of Arizona law students) 
  • Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award (2013) (second-highest DOJ award for employee performance; for appellate and district court work in United States v. Loughner, 672 F.3d 731 (9th Cir. 2012); D.C. No. CR-11-00187-LAB) 
  • Award of Appreciation for Excellence as Appellate Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona (2012)
  • Arizona State Bar Continuing Legal Education Award (2007) (for excellence in publications and as a legal instructor)
  • DOJ Director’s Award Recipient For Superior Performance as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (2002) (for appellate and district court work contributing to United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002))
  • DOJ Director’s Award Recipient For Excellence as Legal Instructor For Office of Legal Education, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (2000)
  • Awards of Excellence, National Park Service (2001) & Department of Agriculture (2000) (for outstanding assistance to Coronado National Forest and Saguaro National Park law enforcement officers)
  • Award of Appreciation, Pima County Attorney’s Office (1997) (for “exemplary legal support” to the office as Deputy Pima County Attorney)

Community Service/Bar Activities (past and present)

  • Arizona’s Finest Lawyers, Advisory Board; Sustaining Member 
  • Arizona Lawyers Foundation (formerly AFL above), Sustaining Member 
  • Arizona Minority Bar Association, Member
  • Arizona State Bar:
    • Appellate Practice Section, Chair & Executive Council Member 
    • Committee on Minorities & Women in the Law, Chair & Member 
    • Leadership Institute, Public Sector Program Co-Chair 
    • Professionalism Committee, Vice-Chair & Member 
  • Arizona Women Lawyers Association: President, Advisory Board, State Board, Steering Committee, Sustaining Member
  • Appellate & Fegtly Moot Court Judge, University of Arizona College of Law 
  • District of Arizona Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Federal Bar Association, Member
  • Latina Mentoring Program, Mentor, University of Arizona College of Law 
  • Legal Instructor, federal, state, and national conferences and seminars
  • Legal Community Against Hunger, Board of Directors  
  • Morris K. Udall American Inns of Court, Barrister 
  • Pima County Bar Association, Sustaining Member
  • Pima County Superior Court Pro Tem Judicial Selection Committees
  • “The Noteables” Singing Quartet

Legal Trainings & Presentations

In addition to teaching as a Professor of Practice, Ms. Cabanillas has presented to various local and national audiences for over 30 years, including state and federal judges, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, and civil practitioners, as well as support staff, probation officers, law students, high school students, and non-lawyers.  Among other topics, she has taught search and seizure, confessions, appellate advocacy, legal research and writing, federal and Arizona criminal law and procedure, habeas petitions and post-conviction motions, sentencing, prosecutorial ethics, and mentoring, leadership, and professionalism.  

Professor of Practice