Yet Another History-Making Judicial Confirmation

The US courts have been on a roll this month.

Earlier in the month we had seen Mary Yu, Theodore Chuang, and Manish Shah put their own mark on judicial history by setting some rather impressive firsts of their own. You would think that would be the end of it in terms of judicial diversity and representation for now, but it appears that May had more up its sleeve than most people would give it credit for.

Landing her confirmation with an impressively unanimous 96-0 vote, Diane Humetewa stands to be the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge, and, perhaps regrettably, the only currently active Native American judge in the federal courts.

A former appellate court judge for the Hopi Tribe, Humetewa has spent much of her career dedicated to helping Native peoples and their needs. According to the Associated Press, as a federal court judge in Arizona, she stands to deal with a case load likely to be about 20% higher than the national average for federal court judges.

The statement from Justice at Stake probably sums up everything I need to say much better than I could be able to articulate.

 The interests of justice are best served when judges reflect the broader society.  Judges learn from each other as peers. A variety of life experiences on the bench creates a broader understanding of complex matters, enhancing judicial decision making and reducing ‘group think’. Further, when we fail to tap highly qualified candidates from all backgrounds, we are leaving talent on the sidelines.  With the confirmation of Judge Humetewa, the Senate has taken an important step toward broadening the makeup of the federal courts.

Increasing representation of Native Americans on the federal bench is especially important because federal courts have an outsized authority in defining what’s known as federal Indian law. As a result, Native American people and tribal entities appear as parties in federal court proceedings at far higher rates than do non-Native Americans. Given this picture, the current lack of any active federal judges who are Native Americans is absolutely appalling.

Well said. Here’s looking forward to more diversity in the courts and a judicial makeup more representative of the nation’s people.

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