Biden nominates first Indigenous woman to serve as Oklahoma federal judge

By: - October 18, 2023 4:45 pm

Sara Hill (Photo courtesy of the Cherokee Nation)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced the historic nomination of a Cherokee Nation attorney to serve as a federal judge in Oklahoma. 

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sara Hill would become the first Native American woman to be appointed as a federal district judge in Oklahoma, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Hill, whom Biden nominated to fill a vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, would also be just the sixth Native woman appointed nationally to a lifetime federal judgeship, the group said in an email. 

“As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation with deep experience in Indian law, Ms. Hill would bring incredibly important and underrepresented lived and professional experience to our federal judiciary,” said Lena Zwarensteyn, the senior director of the group’s fair courts program, in a statement.

Hill, who works in private practice, served as Cherokee Nation attorney general from 2019 to 2023.

In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribe is pleased.

“She is a brilliant attorney and dedicated public servant who possesses the knowledge, demeanor, and compassion to serve the country well on the bench,” he said. “As a female and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, she not only adds diversity to the ranks of federal judges, she also brings knowledge of Indian Country issues that we need more of among federal judges.” 

He called for the U.S. Senate to quickly confirm Hill.

In a statement, Republican U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin said he was happy to hear about Hill’s nomination. 

“As a fellow member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, I am grateful for Sara Hill’s service to the tribe, which totals about 19 years.”

He said Hill’s previous experience also includes serving as a special assistant U.S. attorney. 

Mullin said he expects she will be confirmed by the full Senate.   

Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford said he’s met with Hill and looks forward to a full Senate vote soon on both her nomination and that of John Russell — a second Biden nominee for the same federal judicial district. 

The civil rights group said Hill would become the third Native federal judge in the state’s history, with Frank Howell Seay and Billy Michael Burrage being the others.


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Janelle Stecklein
Janelle Stecklein

Janelle Stecklein is editor of Oklahoma Voice. An award-winning journalist, Stecklein has been covering Oklahoma government and politics since moving to the state in 2014.