The staff of the U.S. District Court for the NMI clerk of court’s office, judicial chambers, and probation and pretrial services, were among the awardees in the 2019 Administrative Office of the U.S. Court’s Director’s Awards for overcoming the challenges of two devastating typhoons in recent years.
The CNMI employees received the Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions, which was among the six areas given awards.
According to U.S. courts’ article published last Nov. 14, employees from 10 federal courts have received the 2019 Director’s Awards, which recognize outstanding performance, innovation, and dedication by employees throughout the Judiciary each year.
The recipients were nominated by colleagues based on career achievements and contributions to specific projects that have benefited their home courts and the federal Judiciary as a whole.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona said the swift action of the employees from the CNMI avoided what would’ve been a disastrous mold infection following the 2015 Typhoon Soudelor.
In her nominating letter, Manglona said the staff from the CNMI endured two major typhoons, yet continued to operate the court with minimal disruption, under extraordinary emotional and physical stress.
When Typhoon Soudelor struck Saipan in August 2015, trees and power lines blocked many roads. Manglona said employees negotiated those barriers to get to the courthouse, where they quickly used vacuums and fans to begin drying out water damage.
With most of the island having no electricity, federal court employees worked with the U.S. Marshals Service and local agencies to ensure a supply of diesel fuel for a generator, Manglona said.
“This fueled generator not only allowed the court to reopen,” Manglona said, “it was vital to reducing the humidity in the building to prevent dangerous and damaging mold growth.”
In October 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu struck Saipan with sustained wind speeds of more than 170 miles per hour.
Manglona said Yutu’s widespread devastation was shocking as the massive storm turned roofs into rubble while frightened inhabitants hid in backrooms, closets, and bathrooms.
Whereas the federal courthouse reopened in 10 days in 2015, the staff needed only five days to reopen in 2018. By the second storm, Manglona said, employees were well-versed in emergency procedures.
“This knowledge meant the federal court remained available during a crisis,” Manglona said.
She noted that employees also assisted each other with home cleanup, and during the power outage of 2015, even set up a makeshift home laundry center at the courthouse.
“The employees of the District Court for the NMI exemplified ‘Marianas Strong’ (the mantra of the island after Super Typhoon Yutu).” We are incredibly fortunate to work with these brave, compassionate, and steadfast employees,” Manglona said.
Three U.S. probation officers from the District of Arizona—supervisory U.S. probation officer Winter Martinez, senior U.S. probation officer Cory Clever, and senior U.S. probation officer Jordan Gaiser—also received the same award for Extraordinary Actions.
The five other areas that were given awards were: Outstanding Leadership, Excellence in Court Operations/Administration, Excellence in Court Operations/Technology, Excellence in Court Operations/Support, and Excellence in Court Operations/Mission Requirements.
Margaret Wiegand, circuit executive for the Third Circuit, received the Outstanding Leadership award.
Angela D. Caesar, clerk of court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was awarded Excellence in Operations/Administration.
Marcia M. Anderson, clerk of court for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, received the Excellence in Operations/Administration award.
Michael Rhodes, clerk of court for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, was awarded Excellence in Operations/Administration.
Johnathan Wiltshire, a programmer analyst for the Northern District of Oklahoma, received the Excellence in Operations/Technology award.
Patricia S. Connor, clerk of court for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, was awarded Excellence in Operations/Support.
Laura Garcia-Hein, Spanish interpreter for the District of Nebraska, received the Excellence in Operations/Mission Requirements award.
Wade Warren, chief probation officer for the District of North Dakota, was awarded Excellence in Operations/Mission Requirements.