Yurok Tribal Court Judge Abby Abinanti recently spoke about her court’s approach to restorative justice with Del Norte County students participating in the Youth Training Academy.
Abinanti, who was the first Native American woman admitted to the State Bar of California in 1974, shared personal and professional stories and her experiences with criminal justice reform Monday with roughly 50 students at College of the Redwoods, according to a Building Healthy Communities press release.
Abinanti spoke of how she incorporates traditional culture in her courtroom to rehabilitate individuals and provide justice to people often failed by the regular criminal justice system, according to the press release.
Abinanti also used examples such as two tribal members fighting over the same fishing hole or another who has kept his net in the water too long, according to the press release.
“Instead of just slapping them with a big fine or throwing them in jail, I like them to take responsibility for fixing it; to resolve the issue on their own,” Abinanti told the students. “I ask people to be respectful of one another. Otherwise it’s just a mud bath — everyone just gets dirty and nothing is resolved.”
The Yurok Tribal Court was originally established in 1974 by the federal government in response to requests from various agencies and the enactment of the Magnuson Act by Congress, according to the press release.
The court was set up as a Code of Federal Regulations Court on the Hoopa Indian Reservation to regulate Indian fishing on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. As the courts’ chief judge, Abinanti addresses a variety of tribal cases, including truancy and juvenile cases.