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King would be third Native American federal judge

President Joe Biden nominated Lauren J. King (Muscogee Creek Nation) to a federal judgeship in the spring, which began what is sometimes a slow process to a confirmation vote by the U.S. Senate. If confirmed, King would be only the third active Native American federal judge serving in the U.S. and the first Native American federal judge in Washington State. She has been nominated to the Western District of Washington.

Indian Country sees King’s nomination as the Biden administration continuing to deliver on its promise to promote diversity in an array of positions and issues. There are only two Native American federal judges currently serving in a U.S. District Court – Diane Humetewa (Hopi) who serves the District of Arizona and Ada Brown, of Choctaw lineage, who serves the Northern District of Texas. There are 890 federal judgeships in all. Prior to Humetewa and Brown, only two other Native Americans had ever served as federal judges since the establishment of the federal court system in 1789.

King, 38, has been a pro tem appellate judge for the Northwest Intertribal Court System since 2013. She is an appointed commissioner on the Washington State Gambling Commission and previously taught federal Indian law at the Seattle University School of Law.

Lauren J. King

“Ms. King has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the legal field that includes positions as a judge, practitioner and instructor. Her work on behalf of our Nation, both on our Mvskoke Reservation Protection Commission and in defending the preservation of sacred ceremonial sites, will be impactful for generations to come,” read a partial
statement by the Muscogee Nation.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) have long advocated for more Native American nominees for federal judgeships and both organizations are pushing for King’s confirmation.

“Washington State is home to 29 federally recognized Indian tribes, making it critical that its federal judges better reflect the communities they serve and understand the unique histories of Native peoples and the legal principles that protect and preserve our standing under federal law,” read a partial statement from NCAI president Fawn Sharp. Sharp added that if the federal judiciary reflected nationwide demographics, there would be at least 14 Native Americans serving as federal judges.

King’s confirmation is still pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which last held a hearing on the nomination June 9. If the nomination advances, a full Senate vote would take place. As of press time, no further action had been scheduled.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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