Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

SAIO 50 for 50: Hon. Sunshine Sykes

Main content start

This Week's Spotlight:  Hon. Sunshine Sykes ('97, B.A. English with honors, '01, J.D.)

Judge Hon Sunshine Sykes

Judge Sykes (Diné) presides over the Complex Civil Litigation department and the Appellate Division for Riverside County Superior Court and is Riverside County’s sole nighttime magistrate judge. Judge Sykes is a member of the Riverside County Tribal Alliance, the Tribal Court/State Court Forum Advisory Body of the Judicial Council of California, and the Judicial Selection Advisory Committee for the Inland Empire appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom. She is the first Native American judge on the Riverside County bench.

A former Deputy County Counsel for Riverside County and Juvenile Defense Panel attorney, Judge Sykes has expertise in the Indian Child Welfare Act and has trained social workers, attorneys, and judges throughout the State of California. As Deputy County Counsel, she managed a broad civil litigation caseload, was lead counsel representing the Riverside County Transportation Department in the enforcement of subdivision improvement agreements and bonds, and was the sole counsel assigned to represent the Registrar of Voters in voting and election matters.

Judge Sykes clerked at DNA People’s Legal Services and was an intern, then clerk, and then an Equal Justice Works Fellow at California Indian Legal Services (CILS). At CILS she worked with both Tribes and individual tribal members on issues ranging from tribal jurisdiction, sovereignty, repatriation of cultural resources, and child welfare to trust lands, wills, and estates. During her fellowship, she developed culturally appropriate services for Native domestic violence victims and their families, bridged the gap between Indian and non-Indian service providers, and provided representation to Native women suffering from domestic violence.  

Judge Sykes's Interview