Diane Humetewa has been confirmed as the first woman of Native American descent to become a federal judge. In a 96-0 Senate vote on Wednesday night, it was unanimously agreed that Humetewa should serve the District of Arizona for the U.S. District Court system. Only four senators did not make the vote: John Boozman (R-Ark.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) The newly appointed federal judge is an active member of the Hopi tribe as well as a former U.S. attorney in the state of Arizona.
According to the Arizona State University (ASU) website, Humetewa serves as a Special Advisor to the university’s President, Michael Crow, regarding American Indian Affairs and also as a Special Counsel to the Office of General Counsel. She has functioned as an advocate in building ASU’s relations with American Indian students, both current and prospective, as well as with Indian tribal governments. Through this work, Humetewa has improved access to a high quality of education and retention, thereby ensuring the success of the students.
The ASU graduate is a Professor of Practice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She earned her B.A. In 1987 and her J.D. In 1993. Arizona is her home state. Before becoming a part of ASU’s legal and administrative teams in 2011, Humetewa represented tribal governments in the private sector. She specialized in natural resources and federal Indian law.
Humetewa has had a vast amount of experience in public service. This most recent appointment is not her original historical first. She was also the first woman of Native American descent who was presidentially appointed as U.S. Attorney. In that role, from 2007 to 2009, for the state of Arizona, Humetewa supervised a large staff and carried a broad caseload. She also served as Assistant U.S. Attorney. In that position, Humetewa prosecuted, among other types of cases, crimes involving archaeological resources, Native American culture and violence in Indian Country. As first female Native American federal judge, Humetewa will bring valuable experience to the bench.
Her federal level career afforded Humetewa the opportunity to hone her skills in a variety of positions. She served as the Senior Litigation Counsel/Tribal Liaison, deputy counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, counsel to the Deputy Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department and supervisor of the U.S. Attorney’s Victim Witness Program.
Early on in Humetewa’s distinguished career, she aided in establishing one of the first victim services programs in the U.S. She is a member of the Arizona State Bar Association, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona and the Board of Directors for the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation. She is an awardee of the Arizona State Historical Society’s 48 Intriguing Women of Arizona and was an Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Indian Tribe.
In her new appointment, Humetewa will be filling one of six spaces that are currently vacant in the federal District Court of Arizona, which is currently overburdened. As one of the busiest courts in the country, there was a judicial emergency declared in 2011. The National Congress of American Indians has praised the decision. According to their statement, she has dedicated herself to Native people by serving their interests. As the first woman of Native American descent to be appointed as a federal judge, Humetewa will be able to serve them in an even greater capacity.
by Stacy Lamy