ua law logo high res | Link                                                                                  May 28, 2014



As part of our 2014 commencement ceremonies the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program recognized graduating students at all degree levels, and the College of Law announced that Judge Lawrence Huerta ('53) will receive the College's highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.


Until the footnotes,




Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program

Just hours before the formal graduation ceremony started, students and faculty gathered at a reception for the Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy (IPLP) Program to celebrate our milestones -- 27 years since the Indian Law Program was founded by Professor Rob Williams, 13 years of LLM graduates, and 8 years of SJD graduates. 


LLM students in Arizona Law's internationally recognized program represent 39 indigenous groups in 15 countries on six continents.  SJD students and alumni represent 10 indigenous groups in 12 countries on six continents. We take great pride in the IPLP Program, which is a model for all that we do, and a model for what a leading program can be for other law schools throughout the US and around the world.


Also in attendance was honored guest Judge Lawrence Huerta ('53) who you'll learn more about in the alumni profile below. IPLP Director and Professor Melissa Tatum issued a charge to the graduates drawn from the principles in Judge Huerta's 1968 book, Enriching Your Life:

  • Keep your hands on the wheel that controls your life.
  • Commit to yourself.
  • Don't dwell on your failures.
  • Clean up your desk.
  • Read a new book.
  • Be daring and different.
  • For the love of heavens, smile.
  • Encourage the people who come into contact with you.

With the charge from Professor Tatum in mind -- and the benefits of the best education -- I am confident that this year's IPLP graduates will venture out as leaders and experts in indigenous law, joining our distinguished family of alumni who are making a difference every day.


The IPLP Program also creates an annual graduation video as a gift to the graduates.  Watch the YouTube video here.

IPLP graduates with Judge Huerta


Lawrence Huerta ('53)


Judge Lawrence Huerta, an enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, was the first Native American to graduate from the College of Law and became the first Native American to be licensed to practice law in Arizona. 
He graduated in 1953, earning the third highest score on the Arizona bar examination.  He served as an Assistant Attorney General in Arizona and for five years was a Legal Adviser to the Navajo Nation.


Judge Huerta also played a pivotal role in drafting the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Constitution and in obtaining trust lands and federal benefits for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.  He was the first Native American to be appointed to the Arizona Industrial Commission where he served for six years.  


In 1967, he was appointed to the Maricopa County Superior Court and filled his judicial responsibilities with distinction.  A strong proponent for education, Judge Huerta also served as Chancellor of the newly created Navajo Community College (now Diné College). 


Throughout his life, Judge Huerta has been a champion of Native American legal rights and equal educational opportunity.  He has touched the lives of thousands as an advocate, a mentor, a judge, a nation builder, an author, a colleague, and a friend.  Coming from humble roots, he succeeded in the highest echelons of the legal profession. By his own example, Judge Huerta has shown the value of hard work, fierce determination, generosity of spirit, and absolute integrity. 


Judge Huerta spoke at the IPLP graduation ceremony responding to the announcement that he will receive the College's Lifetime Achievement Award.  He offered his humble thanks for the award and -- consonant with his character -- shared the story of his own graduation.


When Judge Huerta was nearing graduation from law school, his parents were told that it is traditional to provide your child with a graduation gift.  They wanted to demonstrate their pride in his achievements, but with only limited resources an expensive present was out of the question.  So his mother began to craft a statue of Lady Justice out of clay and papier-mâché, while his father carved the woodwork for the scales.  


Judge Huerta brought the finished statue to the ceremony, sharing this extraordinary demonstration of love and encouragement from his parents.  The beautiful statue had become one of his most treasured possessions.  He noted that for 60 years he had not been able to thank them publicly for the deeply meaningful gift, and sharing his story was a way to thank them.


Judge Huerta then stunned everyone in the room when he announced that he was giving the statue as a gift to the College so that it may be preserved and serve as a symbol of hope, opportunity, and justice for generations to come.


For his tenacity, his talents, and his commitment to the law, the Arizona Law faculty voted to bestow on Judge Huerta the Lifetime Achievement Award. While this award will be formally presented at a future event, we took advantage of the opportunity at the reception to recognize Judge Huerta and celebrate his many accomplishments.


It was my pleasure to honor Judge Huerta for his valuable contributions to the profession, and I invite you to see Judge Huerta's gift, which will be permanently displayed in the library.   


Huerta Scholarship Program

In addition to recognizing Judge Huerta's achievements, we were delighted to announce the formal creation of the Huerta Scholars Program, designed to assist Native students passionate about public service. This scholarship program is designed to honor Judge Huerta's legacy and make it possible for future generations of Native students to follow in his footsteps.


The creation of the Huerta Scholarship fund was led by Fred Urbina ('08), the Chief Prosecutor of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.  With the leadership of Fred and Mercedes Garcia (JD '11, LLM '12) the campaign to endow this scholarship has begun.


To celebrate Judge Huerta's distinguished career, Arizona Law is launching a campaign to raise $5,000,000 for the scholarship program. You can help us honor Judge Huerta's inspiring legacy and continue the tradition he began. You can support the scholarship fund by visiting this link. 


We offer our deep thanks to the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council for their donation of $25,000 as the first major gift to the program. 



Coming soon!


TOMORROW: Thursday, May 29th 

Arizona Law Day in LA


Lunch with the Dean 

12:00 - 2:00 pm

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

333 South Grand Ave

54th Floor

RSVP for the lunch here. 


Cocktail Reception in LA

6:00 - 8:00 pm 


7910 West Third Street

Los Angeles, CA 90048

RSVP for the cocktail reception here. 


For more information contact Marissa White at 520-626-8132 or


* * *


Arizona Bar Convention and Dean's Reception

(all alumni and friends welcome) 


Friday, June 13th

6:00 - 8:00pm

Marc Miller's Home

3040 E Ina Road

Tucson, AZ  85718 


RSVP here. 


 * * *

Arizona Law Week in DC

AZ Law will be in DC June 23rd - June 27th    


* * *

SAVE THE DATE - PLAN AHEAD - Centennial Homecoming Weekend

November 7-9, 2014 

For more information, CLICK HERE to visit our Homecoming 2014 website.


* * *



After a quiet week, our hallways are starting to buzz again with students preparing for the July bar exam.  We have great faith in all of our graduates, and know that their hard work and their diligence on this, as on all tasks, will lead to success.  .


We are also renovating our Career Development Office this summer.  Members of the CDO will be temporarily relocating to the library during the summer.   But they are always available as a resource to all current students, and to all alumni. Please reach out if we can be of assistance. 





Marc Signature      

Marc L. Miller 
Dean & Ralph W. Bilby Professor of Law 
James E. Rogers College of Law    

Looking for a way to make an impact?   
Make a donation to our student scholarship fund.   Every dollar invested produces a solid return and helps to alleviate the burden of educational debt for a student. 




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