In Memoriam: Judge Lawrence Huerta 1924 – 2022

June 13, 2022

Celebrating the life and legacy of this University of Arizona alumnus.

“Life is a blank sheet of paper in which each of us writes one or two words before night arrives. Start it off with greatness, even if you only have time for one line make it great. To fail is not a crime but holding low ideals is.”

– Judge Lawrence Huerta, Enriching Your Life 1968

 

The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law mourns the loss of The Honorable Carrasco Lawrence Huerta (‘53) who passed away on May 25, 2022. He was 97.

Judge Huerta, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, was the first Native American to graduate from University of Arizona Law and the first to be licensed to practice law in Arizona. Throughout his illustrious career, he worked tirelessly to increase access to education for Indigenous communities and promote tribal sovereignty. During his time as chancellor of Navajo Community College (now Diné College), Huerta helped to expand its reach and impact within the Navajo community, establishing the institution as a pillar of the nation-building activities of the Navajo Nation.

Huerta was also instrumental in the drafting of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s constitution and played a pivotal role in the tribe’s successful effort to gain federal recognition, extending significant rights to the tribe and its members. Today, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has one of the most robust governments and tribal court systems in the nation. 

Committed to a life of public service, Huerta worked in various capacities for the state of Arizona including as the assistant attorney general, as a member of the State Industrial Commission and as a judge on the Maricopa County Superior Court. In recognition of the countless lives he impacted, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from University of Arizona Law in 2015, the highest honor bestowed by the college. 

In 2014, as a tribute his lifetime of leadership to University of Arizona Law and to the legal community,  the Huerta Scholarship was created thanks to an originating gift of $25,000 from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. In the eight years since its creation the scholarship program has provided financial support to 37 Native students attending University of Arizona Law and helped to increase the overall number of Native students attending law school and Native Lawyers practicing law.

“Judge Lawrence Huerta stands out as one of the most interesting and extraordinary graduates in the history of Arizona Law,” said Dean Marc Miller. “He graduated when Arizona Law had been in existence for only 38 years. In the 70 years since, he had a major impact on the Pascua Yaqui Nation, of which he was a member, and communities far beyond. Now, and for generations to come, students will learn about Judge Huerta as they are supported as Huerta Scholars.” 

In the nearly seventy decades since Huerta graduated from University of Arizona Law, more than 200 Native American and Indigenous students have followed in his footsteps, earning law degrees and making remarkable achievements within their chosen career fields.

Regents Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr. faculty co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program which selects the Huerta Scholarship Award recipients remarked on Judge Huerta’s impact and legacy; “He lived a remarkable life of achievement and commitment to advancing the rights of his Yaqui community and to Native peoples throughout the state of Arizona. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor Judge Huerta and celebrate his life than to continue on his work through the Huerta Scholars who have graduated from his alma mater and will continue to graduate inspired by his remarkable career.”