On March 7 at noon, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Court staff, judges and other legal practitioners gathered in Courtroom 1 to witness the swearing-in of Judge Louis Araneta by SRPMIC Chief Judge Ryan Andrews.
Judge Araneta is a retired superior court judge/court commissioner who has worked for the Maricopa County Superior Court for 20 years. Prior to that, he worked as a deputy public defender, assistant attorney general and as an assistant federal public defender.
As a judge, Araneta has presented or has been a faculty member at various Arizona State Bar and Maricopa County Bar Association continuing-legal-education seminars. He earned his bachelor of arts with honors from Stanford University and earned his juris doctor degree from Stanford Law School.
“Judge Araneta has come in and shown his willingness to learn our process. He has been a judge previously and done some other work on the way,” said Andrews. “We are glad to have him on board.”
SRPMIC President Diane Enos was also present at the ceremony.
“What the Council has done in choosing Judge Araneta is a huge step for the Community. For years the Council has been working on the court and paying attention to its needs so that our citizens, as well as outside litigants, can come to this court and feel confident that they are going to get efficiency and be able to walk away knowing that their cases were fully dealt with.”
Araneta will be the Community’s first law-trained licensed judge who is a member of the Bar Association, as well as the first non–Native American on the court.
Enos took the opportunity to say a few words about the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act.
“There are certain requirements [stating that] tribal courts which want to do extended sentences [must] have certain safeguards in place,” said Enos. “These safeguards are what we seek to make sure our citizens have the right to counsel, and the tribe has done that for many years so that we have an appeals process and adequate record-keeping so that the people’s cases proceed in a timely and efficient manner.”
Enos further explained that Council set up a working group to deal with all of the needs that arise because of the Tribal Law and Order Act requirements, “and now we have the Violence Against Women Act, which the U.S. president is signing today.”
Enos continued to talk about criminal jurisdiction within the Community and how the SRPMIC always had laws in the Community, decades before any foreigner ever stepped foot on our land.
After Araneta was sworn into office, he shared with the guests some information about his background and current goals.
“When I first applied as judge, I started doing as much research as I could to learn more about the Community and learn about the Tribal Law and Order Act,” said Araneta.
Araneta remembered when the Community hosted a U.S. Senate hearing to gather input from Community members as well as other individuals about what the Tribal Law and Order Act should be and how its provisions could be improved and it could be passed by the federal government.
“I want to thank all the court staff and judges for making me feel very comfortable, … like I am a part of this Community,” said the newly sworn-in judge. “I am going to be a judge on this Community, so therefore I will consider myself an integral part of this Community.”
Araneta thanked the Tribal Council, then thanked the selection board that chose him for taking time to listen to him when he interviewed.
“One of the things I said was that it takes more than knowing the law, ordinances and rules to be a fair and impartial judge—it also takes someone to know the Community’s culture and core values to understand the justice here,” said Araneta. “This is the Community Court and it [works] … for the Community members, and I have seen that in just the few days that I have been here observing.”
He talked with the advocacy offices about the nature of judicial work. “Most times we never make all parties happy. Judges call the cases the way they see them based on the law and evidence, and I know we will have our disagreements,” said Araneta. “But I promise I will listen, understand and communicate with you all, and I ask that you do likewise with me. I want to thank all of you for this tremendous opportunity you have given me.”