Native American Heritage Spotlight: Hon. Diane Joyce Humetewa

Native American Heritage Spotlight: Hon. Diane Joyce Humetewa


Hon. Diane Joyce Humetewa is no stranger to making history.  She was the first Native American woman to become a federal judge.  She was also the first Native American woman to be appointed as a United States Attorney in 2007.  Currently, she is one of three Native American women to sit on the federal bench.

A member of the Hopi Tribe and lifelong Arizonan, Judge Humetewa received her J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. As an undergraduate studying justice studies at Arizona State, Humetewa interned with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix, where she was subsequently hired as a crime victim advocate, enhancing her experience with trial advocacy efforts and the federal court system.

While with the U.S. Attorney’s office, Humetewa witnessed important improvements in the process of trying what were referred to then as “Indian Country” cases, which involve tribes living on reservations and having their own court system.  These improvements helped raise awareness of the myriad challenges crime victims on reservations faced in accessing justice. They also helped direct Humetawa’s future. Following her experience with the U.S. Attorney’s office, she determined to pursue a legal career.

With her J.D. in hand, Humetewa worked as a professor at her law school alma mater and later served as deputy counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  She also served as counsel to the deputy attorney general of the United States.

On September 19, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Humetewa to serve as a Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.  Humetewa was one of four Arizona judicial nominees, won unanimous approval in U.S. Senate with a 96-0 vote, and received her judicial commission on May 16, 2014.

Judge Humetewa balances her work for the federal government with her efforts for the Hopi Tribe.  She served as the Senior Litigation Counsel/Tribal Liaison between Arizona’s tribal justice systems and the Federal court.  As a prominent member of the Hopi Nation, Judge Humetewa is a recognized expert on tribal legal issues, and she continues to give lectures and symposiums.  In 2016, she was a keynote speaker at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s Native Peoples, Native Politics symposium.

Judge Humetewa shares her wealth of experience with all.  In addition to her work with the federal government and Hopi Tribe, she serves as a mentor to law clerks and court staff.  She is a board member for many volunteer organizations, including the Udall Foundation, the Hopi Education Endowment Foundation, the Phoenix Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the ASU Indian Legal Advisory Council.  Law schools and congressional committees alike often seek her guidance on issues facing Indigenous communities.

Judge Humetewa is an inspiration to all members of the legal community.  Her qualifications, experience, and determination led to a historic nomination and confirmation.  Judge Humetewa’s accomplishments will hopefully lead to additional confirmations that broaden the federal bench and other federal offices.

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