Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, November 13, 2015


Page 3


Chief Justice Names New Co-Chair of Tribal Court, State Court Forum


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye yesterday named Abby Abinanti as the new co-chair of the Judicial Council’s Tribal Court-State Court Forum.

Abinanti, a member of the forum since its inception in 2010, is chief judge of the Yurok Tribal Court and a San Francisco Superior Court commissioner.

Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Perluss, of this district’s Div. Seven, continues as the other co-chair. He called Abinanti “a passionate advocate who will help the forum find solutions to challenges that tribal and state courts share.”

The forum is made up of California tribal and state court judges, court staff, and representatives from the Governor’s Office and Attorney General’s Office.  

“Tribal and state courts share the same goals of public safety, accountability, and a fair process for those who appear before them,” Abinanti said in a statement released by the Judicial Council. “It’s in the best interest for all Californians that these courts coordinate and share resources to achieve a seamless delivery of justice.”

The council credited the forum with developing “measures to improve the working relationship between California’s tribal and state courts on areas of mutual concern, such as jurisdictional issues, information sharing, and judicial education.” Other issues it has dealt with, the statement said, include tribal access to confidential juvenile court files and juvenile appellate records, enabling state and tribal courts to file and view each other’s protective orders, and providing court-appointed counsel for tribal members who are parties to juvenile dependency proceedings.

Abinanti succeeds one of the original co-chairs, Chief Judge Richard Blake of the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

“Tribal and state courts in California have already learned much from one another,” Blake, now president of the National American Indian Judges Association, said.  “But there is more work to be done. The forum is in good hands with Judge Abinanti.”

The new co-chair has been a Yurok Tribal Court judge since 1997, and was appointed chief judge in 2007.

Abinanti is a graduate of California State University, Humboldt and the University of New Mexico School of Law, and has been a member of the State Bar since 1974. The Judicial Council said she was the first California tribal woman to be admitted in the state.

She served as directing attorney for California Indian Legal Services before being appointed to the commissioner position in 2013.

California has 23 tribal courts, representing more than 40 of the 110 federally recognized tribes in California, the Judicial Council said.


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