Mourning the Passing of Judge Claudette White
The Law Library is deeply saddened by the passing of Judge Claudette White on February 6th, 2021.
Judge White was a member of the Quechan Indian Tribe and played an incomparable role in providing justice to the tribal communities of Southern California and Arizona. Most recently, Judge White was elected to the Quechan Tribal Council for the 2021/2022 term. She served as the Chief Judge for the San Manual Band of Mission Indians from 2018-2020 and Chief Judge for the Quechan Indian Tribe for 11 years before that. As Chief Judge for the Quechan Indian Tribe, she also served the trial and appellate courts as judge pro tem for several tribal nations in Arizona. She was an appointed member of the California State and Tribal Court Forum and the Arizona Tribal, State, and Federal Forum.
A graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, Judge White held a special certificate in Federal Indian Law and was a noted authority in Native American jurisprudence. She was also a knowledgeable source on the topic of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls and was a member of the California Child Welfare Council. During her time as Chief Justice of the San Manual Band of Mission Indians, she worked with tribal youth to create a program to educate the public on the topic of indigenous human trafficking and advocate for victims and their families.
Her work to pioneer a system called “restorative justice” brought her to national attention. Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice that focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment and encourages perpetrators to reconcile with their victims and communities. She, along with Chief Judge Abby Abinanti of the Yurok Tribal Court, was the subject of the documentary film “Tribal Justice” by Makepeace Productions. This documentary followed Judges White and Abinanti as they adjudicated cases involved in the tribal courts. It was featured on the PBS show POV in August of 2017. The Law Library also screened the “Tribal Justice” documentary at our Downtown location on November 7, 2019, as part of our focus on Federal Indian and Tribal Law. We were grateful to have Judge White attend the screening to share her experience filming the movie and update the audience on the individuals featured in the film. It was such a successful event, we scheduled an encore screening and reception with Judge White at the Oceanside Library in April of 2020, but were forced to cancel the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge White was an incredible force in the legal community and she was a radiant presence when speaking on the topics dear to her. She will be greatly missed by our staff, and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family, friends, and colleagues.