The Senate confirmed attorney Joseph James N. Camacho’s nomination to become the newest associate judge at the CNMI Superior Court during a short session yesterday on Capital Hill.
The former House floor leader and government prosecutor replaces Ramona V. Manglona, now chief judge of the District Court of the NMI, and joins current associate judges Perry Inos, Kenneth Govendo, and David Wiseman and Presiding Judge Robert Naraja on the Superior Court bench.
Dressed in his usual white long sleeves, black trousers, and red tie, Camacho appeared calm and collected but nodded each time the eight senators present said “yes” to his confirmation.
All eight senators-Senate President Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), floor leader Pete P. Reyes (R-Saipan), and Sens. Jovita M. Taimanao (Ind-Rota), Juan M. Ayuyu (Ind-Rota), Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian), Henry H. San Nicolas (Cov-Tinian), and Ralph DL Torres (R-Saipan) all affirmed his confirmation. Sen. Luis P. Crisostimo (D-Saipan) was excused.
The gallery, packed with Camacho’s friends and family members, erupted in applause after Manglona announced Camacho’s confirmation.
Camacho, an alumnus of Gonzaga University School of Law and has a private law practice, said he will “do my very best and work hard to be a fair and impartial judge and carry out the intent of the law and make my rulings based on the law with understanding, temperance, and compassion.”
Camacho said he is also aware of the recent epidemic of crime on Saipan and will do his part to find a solution.
“Part of the role of being a judge is to incarcerate those that have been rightly convicted after going through due process but at the same time we must temper our sentence to rehabilitate so that when they come out from the Department of Corrections they can be productive members of our community,” he said.
The former police officer, who also worked as driver, bus boy, and pizza delivery boy in his youth, said his confirmation is a very special moment and the culmination of a very long process.
“Like I said during the hearing, they don’t have a factory where you go and become a lawyer. Most people go to school. I worked to go to college. I worked when I was in law school and I hope I can bring some of that experience and share that [at the Superior Court].I’ve been a police officer and a prosecutor so it was my job to bring people to jail. I’ve also been a defense counsel so it was also my job to bring people out of jail. Having the ability to see a case from both sides gives me an ability to be fair and be more understanding,” said Camacho.
Fitial thanked the Senate for their confirmation of Camacho and said that he always had faith in his nephew.
“I nominated him because of temperament. I’ve noticed him since he came back when he graduated and got his law degree and he started working.he seems to always engage his brain before his mouth. That’s what I like about him. He’s very fair and I think he will continue espousing that great asset of being fair,” said Fitial.
The islands’ chief executive said Camacho’s ascension to the Superior Court bench couldn’t have come at a better time since it has been backlogged with cases ever since Ramona V. Manglona was elevated to the District Court.
“That’s the first court trial and they have a lot of backlogged cases. A lot of times the court will defer to outside counsel because they don’t have enough lawyers but I believe with the replacement of former judge Mona Manglona, the cases that have been backlogged in Superior Court will be resolved,” said Fitial who sat beside Senate President Manglona throughout Camacho’s confirmation.
The new associate judge said he is thankful for Fitial’s confidence and his nomination to the Superior Court and extended his appreciation to the Senate, especially to the Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations and its chairman, Sen. Cruz.
He also thanked his wife, NMI Retirement Fund legal counsel Viola Alepuyo, and the rest of his family and supporters for encouraging him throughout the nomination process.
“Hopefully some day I would like to aspire to become a fulltime farmer and part-time fisherman when the weather is good. But for the meantime, at least the next six years, with the blessing of God and support from family and friends I will do my best and work hard to be as fair a judge as I could be,” said Camacho.
Like yesterday, Camacho’s confirmation hearing Thursday saw the Senate chamber packed by well-wishers, some of whom spoke about the latter’s qualifications to become the next associate judge.
NMI Retirement Fund executive director Richard Vilagomez said he supports Camacho’s nomination because “Joe has always been about the law. First as a police officer, then as a lawyer, and now he’s being nominated to interpret the law.”
Herman R. Deleon Guerrero, a former senator, meanwhile, said he has known Camacho since he was little boy and asked the Senate to approve his nomination.
Former attorney general Matthew Gregory, for his part, said he has never met a lawyer more enthused in taking part in trials than Camacho.
“He’s an experienced trial attorney and that is less common than you might think in the Commonwealth. He is somebody that goes to trial and enjoys trials, enjoys the process. Now when you become a judge you’ll be in a lot of trials and this is a man who enjoys it and who’s good at what he does, tailor-made to be a judge. He’s a man who is passionate about the law and enjoys what he does,” he said.