Camacho marks 3rd year on bench

Judge reveals modernization plan for his courtroom


Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho marked his third year on the bench yesterday with the unveiling of a plan for his courtroom to be retrofitted and modernized to handle a heavy jury trial caseload.

Camacho said that Associate Justice John A. Manglona and the other judges support his idea to modernize his courtroom.

Every year on the anniversary of his ascension to the bench, Camacho issues a report on some of the highlights of the past year, believing that a judge is a public office and that it is important for people to know what their public officials are doing.

Camacho already made some initial improvements in his courtroom such as extension of the defense table to accommodate multiple attorneys and defendants, expanding the courtroom clerk’s work station, a wider podium to accommodate an attorney’s laptop and large binders, and installing several microphones to better record the proceedings.

“The goal is to modernize my courtroom to conduct complex multi-party litigation, equipped to Skype with off-island experts or parties on Rota and Tinian,” the judge said.

Camacho conceded, though, that this project may take a couple of years to complete due to limited funding.

He said the Clerk of Court has informed him that the criminal cases filed for this year have been cut by half. He said only 115 criminal cases have been filed so far this year compared to 230 last year.

“I like to think that longer sentences and strong punishment has a part in removing some repeat offenders from the community or at least deterred some repeat offenders from committing new crimes,” he said.

Camacho has earned a reputation for rejecting lenient plea deals and imposing maximum sentences on habitual offenders.

On prosecution matter, the judge said he has dismissed cases where police officers have done absolute zero investigations at all.

Camacho also ordered the release of several persons unconstitutionally detained beyond 24 hours without access to an attorney or the courts. In one particular case, it involved a woman without a formal charge and illegally detained for almost a week.

Camacho also excluded evidence due to prosecutorial misconduct and ordered prosecutors to publicly apologize to the jury and the community for submitting fake and tampered evidence.

“Justice requires an appropriate punishment but only if the police and prosecutors do their job correctly and in compliance with the Constitution and CNMI laws,” the judge said.

Since taking over the traffic court, Camacho said the Adult Probation Office has informed him that traffic probationers are now 99 percent in compliance.

Camacho removed unnecessary status conferences and unproductive review hearings so, instead of being stuck in court all day, probation officers are freed up to be in the field supervising and monitoring traffic probationers, resulting in the “exceptionally high record of compliance.”

The judge said they hold probationers accountable and reject excuses that fines cannot be paid because they are not working.

“If you cannot pay it off, then you have to work it off as community work service. Pay it off or work it off but you will do something,” he said.

Outside the courtroom, Camacho serves as chairman of the CNMI Criminal Justice Information System, chairs the newly created Mental Health Rules Committee, and has been involved in the Junior High Mock Trial program, which is now on its 10th year.

Camacho also continues to sit as a justice-pro tem in the CNMI Supreme Court on a number of appeals when a justice has a conflict.

The judge also commended his excellent staff—judicial assistant Delia S. Magofna, law clerk Claire Kelleher-Smith, and new deputy clerk Rowena Relado.

“A heartfelt thank you to the support staff, judges and justices for their assistance and support during my third year as a judge. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of the CNMI,” he said.

He also thanked his wife, Viola Alepuyo, and their families for their support and understanding.

Last month, Camacho received the Governor’s Humanities Award for Outstanding Teacher in recognition of 10 years of volunteer work with the Junior High Mock Trial program.

Camacho was previously honored by Saipan Tribune as its 2013 Person of the Year.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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