On November 30, 2023, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) celebrate the confirmation of Judge Shanlyn Park to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai’i. Judge Park is the first Native Hawaiian woman federal judge in the state. Native Hawaiians comprise 21.8% of the population served by the district where Judge Park will preside.

“Inclusion of Native Hawaiians in the courts that preside over matters in Hawaii is critically important to advancing trust in the judicial system and the rule of law. Judge Park’s deep experience in Hawaii state and federal courts, in criminal and civil matters, and her deep connections to the communities her district serves will be a great asset to the court and will help increase trust in the federal justice system,” said Makalika Naholowaʻa, President of the National Native American Bar Association.

“The U.S. legal system will benefit from the unique combination of wisdom, experience, knowledge, and perspective that Judge Park will contribute to the District of Hawai’i,” said NCAI President Mark Macarro, “and NCAI commends President Biden for nominating Judge Park, Senators Hirono and Schatz for their strong support of Judge Park, and for the votes cast by the Senate to make this historic appointment happen.”

Despite the outsized impact federal court decisions have on Native communities, Native people are under-represented in the federal judiciary. Even with Judge Park’s confirmation, of the more than 870 authorized federal judgeships, only seven judges from American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities currently serve on the federal bench. As a Native Hawaiian who lives, works, and volunteers in Hawai’i and who has deep ties to her community, Park understands how federal laws and policies profoundly impact the daily life of Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native people.

“Federal courts hear many cases involving Native people so federal court judges must be aware of the political status, legal principles, and rights of Tribal Nations and Native individuals,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk “The confirmation of Judge Park takes a step in the right direction for a more balanced and representative federal judiciary system.”

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