Among his many accomplishments Judge Huerta, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, was the first Native American to graduate from University of Arizona Law and the first to be licensed to practice law in Arizona. Throughout his illustrious career, he worked tirelessly to increase access to education for Indigenous communities and promote tribal sovereignty. During his time as chancellor of Navajo Community College (now Diné College), Huerta helped to expand its reach and impact within the Navajo community, establishing the institution as a pillar of the nation-building activities of the Navajo Nation.
Huerta was also instrumental in the drafting of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s constitution and played a pivotal role in the tribe’s successful effort to gain federal recognition, extending significant rights to the tribe and its members. Today, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has one of the most robust governments and tribal court systems in the nation.
Committed to a life of public service, Huerta worked in various capacities for the state of Arizona including as the assistant attorney general, as a member of the State Industrial Commission and as a judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court. In recognition of the countless lives he impacted, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from University of Arizona Law in 2015, the highest honor bestowed by the college.
Sherman Marshall, Chief Judge of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court, recently retired after more than 35 years as the heart and soul of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. Judge Marshall was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. He is a fluent Lakota speaker and deeply steeped in Lakota tradition and custom. Sherman received his Associate of Arts degree from Sinte Gleska University and also was the first recipient of a Bachelor of Selected Studies from Sinte Gleska University. He is a 1984 graduate of the University of South Dakota School of Law and a long time member the South Dakota Bar Association. Upon graduation from USD Law, Sherman was admitted to practice and returned home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. After serving as an administrator at Sinte Gleska University for several years, he joined the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court as the Chief Judge, a position he has held since 1986. It is likely that Judge Marshall is one of longest serving judges on any tribal court in Indian Country.
It is difficult to fully understand and comprehend how much Sherman was able to accomplish during his long tenure on the bench. Early in his judicial career, Judge Marshall decided that it was incumbent upon him and his staff to visit all 20 tribal communities on the Reservation to describe the judicial system to community members and equally important, to receive input (including criticism) from community members. Over time, these efforts did much to enhance and increase community respect for the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. Judge Marshall was also instrumental in helping to establish the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Bar Examination, as a necessary prerequisite for practice in the tribal courts of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Rosebud is the only tribe in South Dakota and one of the few anywhere in Indian country that prepares and administers its own Bar Examination. Closely related to the implementation of its own Bar Examination, Sherman was a key figure in establishing Sicangu Oyate Tribal Bar Association, one of the very few functioning tribal bar associations that exists in Indian Country. The Sicangu Oyate Tribal Bar Association, which includes both law trained and non-law trained tribal advocates has served to help create and identify a community of practitioners who are committed to practicing in tribal court with integrity and a commitment to fairness and due process.
PABLO, MT — Winona Tanner, long time Chief Judge of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court and tribal employee for almost 40 years, passed away Friday. CSKT’s Tribal Council ordered that flags be flown at half-mast in her honor.
Tanner began working at Tribal Legal Services in 1983. She also worked at the Tribal Prosecutors Office and Tribal Defenders Office. Tanner became chief judge in 2004 after her predecessor, Louise Burke, encouraged her to step up in the leadership role.
“Everyone who ever worked with Winona behind the bench or appeared before her will miss her dedication, care and deep understanding of our community,” said CSKT Chairwoman Shelly R. Fyant. “We lowered our flags in her honor. She’s among the Evelyn Stevenson’s and Louise Burke’s as builders of our court system.”
Tanner was regularly asked to swear in new people elected to Tribal Council. Her beaded robes were often pointed out and complemented by dignitaries and guests who toured the tribal court system. She was generous and known for gifting star quilts to the tribal court founders.
Judge Tanner actively participated in activities and organizations that helped improve the delivery of services within tribal justice systems. She served in leadership roles for the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Judges Association, the Montana Access to Justice Committee, and the National American Indian Court Judges Association for many years.
She was most recently working on plans to remodel the court building and expand the facilities with a successful grant effort. CSKT Chairwoman Shelly Fyant will say a few words about Tanner at the planned memorial for all those who have been lost this past year in Arlee at the powwow grounds Saturday afternoon.
Judge Tanner recognized the value of tribal sovereignty and she frequently utilized tribal traditions within the court system, particularly when children were involved in a matter. Her concerns for the best interest of children, families and the tribal community ran deep. She supported approaches that insured promotion of cultural connections and identity with compassion and great wisdom. Casey Family Programs recognized Judge Tanner’s dedication to family issues with the 2015 Casey Excellence for Children Leadership Award. The ripple effects of her work leaves a rich legacy of how restorative principles can address community problems and help create a strong respect for the CSKT tribal court system both locally and nationally.
Judge Tanner used her deep understanding of the Flathead Reservation community to apply the legal system in a way that was mindful of the values and culture of the people. In her quiet way, she applied her wisdom to guide young people who had lost their way. Once while hearing a case on a tribal member charged with a fish and game violation over a shot deer left to rot, instead of issuing a fine, she referred the young man to visit with the Selis Qlispe Culture Committee. He missed his first appointment, but during the follow-up hearing, she again ordered him to meet with the elders. Once he finally showed, and heard stories on how our ancestors used all parts of an animal, she told a newspaper reporter that she believed those lessons would do a better job reforming the young man than if he had received a fine.
Despite her deep involvement in promoting strong tribal justice systems, Winona was known as a private person from a large family. Her compassion, fairness and wisdom will be greatly missed. Services are planned for early next week.
Honorable Judge John Phillip, Sr. Walks On, 6/24/2021
Honorable Judge John Phillip of the Traditional Village of Kongiganak died June 25, 2021 peacefully at home in his native village in Kongiganak, Alaska.
Judge Phillip began serving as one of three first judges in the small coastal village over 30 years ago. The Traditional Village of Kongiganak is a coastal village near the mouth of the Bering Sea and the Kukokwim River in Southwest Alaska.
Judge Phillip is believed to have been the oldest living tribal judge in the United States and served his community through peaceful and wise traditional love. Judge Phillip is also believed to have been the longest serving tribal judge in Alaska, having served the Kongiganak Tribal Court for 30+ years, oftentimes as a volunteer when the Kongiganak Tribal Court had no funding to pay judges.
His quiet passion for justice was delivered in his Yup’ik language, and when Judge Phillip spoke, his reverent respect for justice was felt whether he was translated or not. His wisdom will be truly missed in the village and throughout Alaska.
The PLSI Judicial Clerkship Committee created this Judicial Clerkship Handbook to encourage and assist Native American law students in applying for and obtaining judicial clerkships across all levels of courts and tribunals. Because judicial clerks play a central role in researching and drafting court decisions, Native American judicial clerks can help foster judicial understanding about tribes as sovereign governments and develop case law that respects tribal sovereignty and rights. Many judicial clerks go on to become members of the judiciary. We hope to encourage more Natives to pursue judicial clerkships and judicial positions on the state, tribal, and federal benches.