Transforming Trauma Episode 068: Community-Based and Trauma-Informed Tribal Court with Judge Abby Abinati
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On this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Emily is joined by Judge Abby Abinati. Judge Abby is the Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe, which is the largest surviving Native American Tribe in the state of California. Judge Abby shares about what she and her people have learned directly about cultural and intergenerational trauma, and how this trauma-informed understanding provides the context for her work within her community.
Judge Abby presides over what is called a wellness court, which offers a healing path for nonviolent offenders. “Humans have the tendency to make mistakes, it’s just our nature. We work with that,” she says. She describes the Tribal judicial system as “responsibility-based” – as opposed to a “rights-based” system that has become the American standard – and shares how responsibility-based principles align with the value system of their tribal community. She provides real-life examples of restorative justice and how this promotes interpersonal healing, strengthening self-esteem and community relationships.
Judge Abby shares about the work she and others are doing to return to their traditional values and create systems that support them. She reflects on the healing she’s witnessed within her community, and says, “When you’ve gone through really hard times and you can share that, there is a way to make the pain lessen. What is another way out of this pain?”
We invite you to listen to the full episode to hear more about Judge Abby’s work.
About Judge Abby: Abby Abinanti, Yurok Chief Judge is an enrolled Yurok Tribal member, she holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and was the first California tribal woman to be admitted to the State Bar of California. She was a State Judicial Officer (Commissioner) for the San Francisco Superior Court for over 17 years assigned to the Unified Family Court (Family/Dependency/Delinquency). She retired from the Superior Court in September 2011 and on July 31, 2014 was reappointed as a part-time Commissioner for San Francisco assigned to Dependency, and Duty Judge for that Court where she served until 2015. She has been a Yurok Tribal Court Judge since 1997 and was appointed Chief Tribal Court Judge in 2007, a position she held in conjunction with her Superior Court assignment until 2015.