Indianz.Com Video: Senate committee advances nomination of Native judge – March 10, 2022
Senate committee advances nomination of Native judge
Friday, March 11, 2022

Sunshine Suzanne Sykes, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is one step closer to becoming a federal judge.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday advanced Sykes’s nomination to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California. The vote at the executive business meeting was 12 to 10, with all Democrats supporting her. The no votes came from Republicans.

With approval from the committee, Sykes can now be considered by the U.S. Senate. If confirmed, she would be the first Native federal judge in California, the state with the largest population of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

indianz · Senate Committee on the Judiciary – Executive Business Meeting – March 10, 2022
Indianz.Com Audio: Senate Committee on the Judiciary Executive Business Meeting – March 10, 2022

Sykes, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Joe Biden, currently serves as a judge for the Superior Court of Riverside County. She is the first Native judge in the county, which is home to more than a dozen tribes, and shared her experience in working there during her confirmation hearing last month.

“When I first started as a judicial officer in Riverside eight years ago, I had a caseload of over 900 cases in my civil department,” Sykes said at the hearing on February 1. “That, as you know, is, is a wealth of cases.”

“I started out straight handling jury trials, one after another and I’ve continued that until I was just recently chosen to be on a complex civil litigation department,” Sykes continued. “In that capacity, over about a period of two years, I was able to reduce my caseload from 900 cases to about 500 cases”

“So I know hard work,” she said. “A lot of judges in Riverside County, which is a highly impacted county, know hard work.”

“So I do not doubt that I will be able to take the skills that I learned in the Riverside Superior Court and bring those with me to the federal court to start addressing some of those backlogs,” she concluded, “if I am so fortunate to be confirmed.”

Indianz.Com Video: Judge Sunshine Suzanne Sykes – Senate Committee on the Judiciary – February 1, 2022

If confirmed, Sykes would be the fourth Native woman to become a federal judge. The most recent is Lauren King, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, who also was nominated by Biden.

King was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 55 to 44 on October 5, 2021, making her the first Native judge in the state of Washington. She serves on the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Ada Brown, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, serves as judge for the Northern District of Texas. She was nominated by Republican former president Donald Trump and was confirmed to the bench in September 2019.

Diane Humetewa, a citizen of the Hopi Tribe was nominated to the bench by then-Democratic president Barack Obama in 2014. She serves on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

Senate Committee on the Judiciary Notice
Executive Business Meeting (March 10, 2022)

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