ASU professor and adviser Diane Humetewa became the first female Native American federal judge when the U.S. Senate unanimously chose to confirm her in May.
“I was very pleased to be nominated in October of last year,” Humetewa said.
Formerly an Arizona District Attorney, Humetewa applied for a judicial applicant review committee formed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Additionally, she applied to the vacancy left by Judge Mary H. Murguia.
“It wasn’t until approximately midsummer last year that I received an inquiry from the White House basically saying that they were interested in potentially nominating me but I would have to go through a vigorous background clearance,” Humetewa said.
Her background includes living on the Hopi reservation during summers as a child.
“It was very important to have our family maintain culture and tradition,” she said.
She said her mother worked in the public school system, so summers presented an easy transition to spend time with the rest of their family. Humetewa lived in Phoenix during the year to attend public school.
This eventually translated into receiving a degree from ASU. Humetewa said her interest sprung while working as a victim advocate in the “mid- to late-’80s” in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“I was encouraged by a lawyer at the U.S. Attorney’s office to think about going to law school,” she said.
She graduated from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in 1993.
Since then, Humetewa has 20 years of experience in many fields, including criminal law, civil law, general Indian law and natural resource law.
“All of that, I think, has helped me to maintain a proficiency in the law,” she said.
She also served as an appellate court judge on the Hopi court.
“The Hopi court is not unlike other tribal or city courts,” she said. “They do handle misdemeanor criminal matters.”
She added that much of the law was borrowed from the state of Arizona.
“They also have very complex civil litigation matters that come before that,” she said.
The judges had to maintain foundations of Hopi tradition and law.
“It was in some ways the same as practicing in a municipal court … but then in other matters, you actually were helping to apply tradition and common law,” she said.
She has also been involved in the Hopi community through her work with the Hopi Education Endowment Fund. LuAnn Leonard, who serves on the Arizona Board of Regents and is the Executive Director of HEEF, said Humetewa was a founder of the fund.
This scholarship helps Hopi students attend college, and Leonard said it has supplied more than $7 million since 2000.
Humetewa’s efforts in Hopi education extend to the University. As the Special Advisor to Office of the President on American Indian Affairs, Humetewa has acted as a liaison to President Michael Crow, according to Leonard.
“She’s worked to first assess the program at ASU — Native American programs — and trying to see how they can better serve the Native American community,” Leonard said.
In addition, Leonard said, Humetewa has worked to increase enrollment and retention rates of Native America students.
ASU president Michael Crow said in an email that Humetewa did well at the University.
“Humetewa has excelled in efforts to bring higher education to American Indian people on tribal lands throughout the state and to improve their academic experience at the university,” Crow said. “We look forward to following her progress as she continues her exceptional career in public service.”
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