Manglona confirmed: First Northern Marianas Judge to sit on Federal District Court

Jul 26, 2011

Washington, DC — The U.S. Senate today confirmed Judge Ramona Villagomez Manglona to be the Judge for the U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands. Manglona will be the first person from the Northern Mariana Islands to be appointed to any federal court. She is also the first woman to be named as the permanent judge for the federal District Court in the Northern Marianas. The Senate confirmed Manglona by unanimous voice vote at approximately 12:46 p.m.
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, who recommended Judge Manglona for the position to President Barack Obama in 2009, said that he was certain she would be a fine jurist. “Ramona Villagomez Manglona is a person of impeccable character who will be as fair and impartial as a U.S. District Court Judge, as she has proven herself to be as an Associate Judge of the Commonwealth Superior Court.
“Judge Manglona’s confirmation is also a milestone in the political development of the Northern Mariana Islands. She exemplifies the degree to which the people of the Northern Marianas have risen to be self-governing and self-sufficient over the yearssince we chose to become part of the United States.
“No longer is it necessary to send jurists from elsewhere to dispense justice in our islands. Now we are capable of producing individuals of the caliber of Judge Manglona in whom President Obama and the United States Senate can have full confidence to interpret the laws of our nation.
“I congratulate Judge Manglona and all the Villagomez and Manglona family. It is just sad that of all the parents only Mr. Prudencio Manglona is still with us. His late wife andJudge Manglona’s parents, the late Manuel Seman and Luise Pangelinan Villagomez, would have been so pleased to see Judge Manglona’s elevation to the federal bench. The Villagomez’s made the decision early on to invest in the education of their daughter. Their understanding of the importance of learning – irrespective of gender – resulted in this proud day for their family and for all the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. The value the Villagomez’s placed on education should be an example to us all.
The Chairwoman of the Congressional Asian and Pacific Americans Caucus, Judy Chu (D-California) also offered her commendation: “I congratulate Judge Manglona on being confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands and becoming the first judge from the Islands to serve on the federal bench.  Judge Manglona bore the burden of being separated from her family at the young age of 12 to pursue an education in the U.S. mainland, and later became the first female Attorney General of the Commonwealth.  She has and will serve as an important role model, not only for women on the Mariana Islands, but also for Pacific Islanders everywhere.  Her groundbreaking past work shows that she will serve the CNMI as a dedicated public servant who interprets the law fairly and justly.
“As Chair of theCongressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am further heartened to see Judge Manglona appointed as the 14th Asian American and Pacific Islander district court judge and the 8th AAPI judge to be confirmed under PresidentObama.  Much work remains to be done, but President Obama has now doubled the number of AAPI judges serving in the federal judiciary. I wish Judge Manglona and her family well on this very special day, a great achievement for the AAPI community as a whole.”
Confirmation was the culmination of a lengthy process
Manglona’s confirmation came to the Senate floor along with that of Paul Engelmayer, who will head the District Court in Manhattan. Both were recommended for confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 7. Paul Oetken, the third person who came before the Committee with Manglona and Engelmayer at a hearing on March 16, was confirmed last week.
Sablan said that his office has been in regular communication with both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell since the Judiciary Committee action to make sure that Judge Manglona’s confirmation came to the floor in a timely fashion.
“This has been a very orderly, sequential process with the Senate taking up one or two nominations each week,” said Sablan. “Judge Manglona’s nomination came to the floor this week as has been the expectation since May, right along with the others the Judiciary Committee recommended in April.
“I am very appreciative of Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley for their recommendation of Judge Manglona, and of Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for moving the nomination forward in a bipartisan fashion,” Sablan added.
Once nominated by the President on January 27 this year, Manglona has moved relatively quickly through the process. But the extensive vetting before her nomination by theWhite House and the Justice Department, looking into the background of the potential nominee and interviewing her friends, family, and associates, took over a year.
Even after the nomination the scrutiny continues. The Senate Judiciary Committee staff compiles information on a nominee’s professional qualifications and fitness to serve based on a comprehensive questionnaire submitted by the nominee and on an evaluation by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
“I know that this have been an arduous process and a very long time coming for Judge Manglona and her family,” Sablan said. “It took 14 months between the time I gave her name to the President and the time he sent her name to the Senate, then another 6 months to get to the Senate floor for a vote. Now that the confirmation is complete I am sure that she must feel quite relieved.
A new precedent: NMI Delegate has voice in judicial selections
Sablan recommended Judge Manglona to replace Judge Alex Munson several months before Munson retired last year. Munson had served as Federal Judge for the Northern Mariana Islands District for two decades. Sablan recommended Manglona not only because she was a worthy candidate, but also, he said, because he felt that an important precedent had to be set.
“The White House usually expects that the respective Senators will put forward the names of individuals to serve on federal courts in their states. The Northern Marianas doesn’t have any Senators, but we now have a Delegate in Congress. I believe that the Delegate should have the equivalent role that Senators have in selecting who will serve on the federal court. I wanted to assert that role and assure the Northern Marianas Delegate will always be looked to by the President to provide a recommendation when vacancy occur on the bench.
“So much of what the first Delegate to Congress does creates a benchmark,” Sablan went on to say. “I am very much aware of the responsibility to set a standard of practice for thefuture in addition to the normal representational duties that come with being a Member of Congress.”
Judge Manglona has held her current position as Associate Judge with the Superior Court for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands since 2003. At the same time she has also served as a Justice pro tempore and Judge pro tempore with the Guam Supreme Court and the Guam Superior Court. From 1998 to 2002, Judge Manglona was an Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth’s Office of the Attorney General.  In 2002, Judge Manglona served as theDeputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth, and was promoted later that year to Attorney General, a position she held until she became a judge.  Judge Manglona received her J.D. in 1996 from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and her B.A. in 1990 from the University of California at Berkeley.