Judicial Advisory Board
About the Judges
Tribal STAR’s Judicial Advisory Board focuses on issues related to tribal youth and families. These judges below support the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). When a judge conveys support for ICWA, this can:
- Improve child welfare practice
- Reduce the number of ICWA-related appeals
- Reduce ICWA-related court costs
- Strengthen relationships between states, counties, and tribes and improve collaboration.
ICWA is best practice for family reunification.
ICWA is best practice for placement.
Below is a listing of the Tribal STAR Judicial Committee members and their biographies.
Judge Abby Abinanti
Abby Abinanti, a Yurok, is a graduate of Humboldt State College and the University of New Mexico School of Law. Admitted in 1974, Judge Abinanti was the first California Native admitted to the California State Bar. She is also one of the very few attorneys practicing tribal child welfare law since prior to the 1978 enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Judge Abinanti served as a California Superior Court Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco, assigned to the Unified Family Court for 18 years. She retired in 2011. Judge Abinanti has also served as Chief Judge for the Yurok Tribal Court since her appointment in March 2007. Her additional tribal court experience includes serving as Chief Magistrate, Court of Indian Offenses for the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation from 1983-1986 and as a Judge by special appointment for many other tribal courts, including Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court (1985), Hopi Tribal Court (1986), and Colorado River Indian Tribe (1994). Judge Abinanti has served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute www.tlpi.org since TLPI’s establishment in 1996. She also currently serves as a member of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Tribes (NRC4Tribes) National Advisory Council.
Judge Abinanti speaks and trains widely on a variety of issues focusing primarily on tribal courts, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and topics related to child, family and community well-being. She is also the author of various training resources, including two Instructor Guides for TLPI’s Tribal Legal Studies textbook series.
Judge Len Edwards
Leonard Edwards is a retired judge working as a consultant, educator, and trainer. A graduate of Wesleyan University (1963) and The University of Chicago Law School (1966), Judge Edwards served as a Superior Court Judge in Santa Clara County for 26 years; in juvenile court for over 20 of those years, and then for six years as Judge-in-Residence at the Center for Families, Children & the Courts, a division of the California Administrative Office of the Courts.
Judge Edwards is a well-known teacher, trainer, and lecturer, having taught at the University of Santa Clara Law School, Stanford Law School, and the California Judicial College. He has conducted numerous trainings and presentations in the U.S. and 11 foreign countries. He has written widely and created teaching videos that have been used for training throughout the United States. His most recent book, The Role of the Juvenile Court Judge: Practice and Ethics, has been distributed to all California judges working in juvenile and family court and to all appellate justices in the state.
Judge Edwards has been given numerous awards from local, state, and national organizations. In 2004 he was awarded the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, the only juvenile court judge ever to receive that award.
In his work as a consultant, Judge Edwards has assisted judges make significant changes in their court system, including starting mediation programs, family drug treatment courts, CASA programs, and other innovations. His primary focus is improving court practice in order to improve outcomes for children and families in the courts system.
Judge William Thorne
William A Thorne, Jr. is a Pomo/Coast Miwok Indian from northern California enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of the Graton Rancheria. He graduated from the University of Santa Clara and Stanford Law School. He practiced law for several years at Echo Hawk & Thorne, specializing on Federal Indian Law. In 1979, Thorne began his service as a tribal judge at the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Court. Since then, he has served many tribes as a tribal judge in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Wisconsin, Washington, Michigan, and California. After 14 years as a state trial judge, he was appointed in 2000 to the Utah Court of Appeals where he served until retiring in 2013.
Judge Thorne has served as board member of numerous non-profits, focusing on Native American and judicial issues, child welfare and adoption, juvenile justice, education, and racial and ethnic fairness, and continues serving many organizations, including the National Indian Justice Center, the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes (NRC4Tribes) National Advisory Council and on the U.S. Children’s Bureau Centennial Blue Ribbon Committee. Judge Thorne is the 2010 Native Inductee into the Stanford University Minority Alumni Hall of Fame. In July 2011, Judge Thorne was elected to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) Board of Trustees, the first tribal voice on the NCJFCJ board.
Judge Thorne continues to speak and teach around the country, chiefly on issues related to children, including child welfare reform efforts, disproportionality affecting minority children, and the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Judge Juan Ulloa
Juan Ulloa is currently assigned to the Civil and Probate Calendars. Judge Ulloa was the Presiding Judge of the Family and Juvenile Court in Imperial County from 2008 to December 2012. In this role, he helped to establish the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program and the Imperial County Peer Court. He is a member of the California State Court-Tribal Courts Forum and has been working to improve communication with Tribal Courts. His hope is to establish a Unified Family Court that would coordinate any pending criminal or domestic violence cases for all persons in the household of any child subject to a Dependency Petition.
He has a law degree from University of California, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Mexican American Studies from UC Riverside. During his college years, Judge Ulloa was very active in student services, including recruitment and selection of Mexican American students for admission under the EOP Program. In Law School, he participated in the La Raza Law Students Association, and served as a Co-Director of the Centro Legal de Santa Monica, a law student project, now a full-fledged legal services program with local, state and federal funding. He served for one year as an Associate Editor of the Chicano Law Review.
Throughout his work, he has assisted many community non-profits such as Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo, Calexico Community Action Council, Heber Community Action Council, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Brawley American Citizens Club, S.E.R. Jobs For Progress, Inc. and Neighborhood House, Inc.
Judge Ulloa is the seventh of 10 children born to parents who were farm laborers.