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Senate confirms first female Native American federal judge

A former U.S. Attorney from Arizona will be the first Native American woman to serve on the federal bench.

Diane Humetewa easily won confirmation Wednesday in the U.S. Senate in a 96-0 vote.

She will fill one of six vacancies in the federal District Court of Arizona.

Humetewa currently serves as special counsel at Arizona State University, where she is also a professor.

She served as U.S. Attorney for Arizona between 2007 and 2009.

She also was an appellate court judge for the Hopi Tribe.

The National Congress of American Indians praised the confirmation, saying Humetewa has dedicated her time to serving the interests of Native peoples.

The overburdened District Court of Arizona remains one of the busiest in the country, having declared a judicial emergency in 2011.

Whitney Cunningham, State Bar of Arizona president, says federal court judges in Arizona face a case load that is 20 percent higher than the national average.

Judicial emergency status allows a U.S. District Court to temporarily suspend the time limit imposed for bringing defendants to trial.

Case overload, lack of resources and the death of Judge John Roll led to the declaration.

Confirmation hearings were held Wednesday and will continue on Thursday.