Former chief justice Demapan passes away

Former CNMI Supreme Court chief justice Miguel S. Demapan passed away at the Commonwealth Health Center on Saturday afternoon. He was 59.

Demapan, who had undergone surgeries in his battle against colon cancer, was rushed to CHC on Friday, relatives said.

The CNMI Judiciary said yesterday that the place and time of funeral services will be announced.

Citing health reasons, Demapan resigned from the Supreme Court on Sept. 30, 2011 where he served as chief justice since 1999 or for 12 years.

Demapan served the CNMI Judiciary for almost two decades. He was Supreme Court associate justice in 1998 to 1999 and a Superior Court associate judge in 1992 to 1998.

He is survived by his wife, Frances Tenorio Demapan, and five children.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos extended their condolences to Frances T. Demapan, the children, and the entire family of the former Chief Justice.

Fitial and Inos in a press statement said as a former chief justice, the late Demapan was tremendously instrumental in the vast improvements undertaken by the judicial branch.

“He was a true guardian of the law and a highly regarded jurist who always upheld honor and humility each time he wore the judicial robe,” Fitial and Inos said.

“Through his devotion to family values, chief justice Demapan was a loving husband to Frances and an exemplary father to his children. We owe a debt of gratitude and a great deal of respect to his family for their support and love during his term on the bench.”

Fitial and Inos said through his intellect and friendship, the late chief justice also enriched the lives of everyone at the courts and in the community.

“Chief justice Demapan’s passing is a deep loss for the Commonwealth. He will be truly missed,” Fitial and Inos said.

Upon learning of Demapan’s passing, acting chief justice Alexandro C. Castro said Demapan was an inspiration to all who came to know him.

“I was most proud to have served with him,” said Castro in the Judiciary’s press statement.

Associate Justice John A. Manglona said Demapan led the Commonwealth Judiciary during its most critical periods and managed to direct its course despite limited resources.

Director of courts Tracy M. Guerrero said it was an honor for her to work with chief justice Demapan.

“He has provided me with many opportunities for learning and growth, including nominating me for the 2010 Toll Fellows, for which I will be always grateful,” Guerrero said.

In a statement during his resignation in September 2011, Demapan said he will always be proud of the Supreme Court and its accomplishments during his tenure.

Demapan said the record will reflect the work done to improve the Judiciary and their efforts to provide more access to the CNMI’s justice system.

“I believe that no secular calling is higher than to sit in judgment over disputes brought by the people in their public courts for resolution.I hope that my tenure as chief justice has been worthy of the high standard set by my predecessors,” he said.

Demapan, one of nine children, was born and raised on Saipan. He graduated as class valedictorian of Marianas High School in 1971.

Originally interested in pursuing a medical career, Demapan attended Seattle University in Washington under a Trust Territory Full Scholarship. He received his Bachelor of Science with an emphasis in chemistry in 1975.

He then earned a Masters in Business Administration with honors from Golden Gate University in San Francisco in 1983. He finally settled on a career in law after earning his Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University in California in 1985. In May 2005, he received a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Guam.

According to the Judiciary, upon his return to Guam, Demapan embarked on a legal career, beginning as general counsel for J.S. Tenorio Enterprises, Inc.

Demapan then opened a solo private law practice. A few years later, the law offices of Demapan and Pedro Atalig were representing major business and local clients.

Demapan’s other activities included:

-Chairman, Commonwealth Judicial Council

-Chairman, Commonwealth Law Revision Commission

-Chairman, Criminal Justice Planning Agency Supervisory Council

-Judge Pro Tem, Supreme Court and Superior Court of Guam

-President, Pacific Judicial Council (2000-2002) and (2008-present)

-Member, Conference of Chief Justices (U.S.A.)

-Board of Directors, U.S. Conference of Chief Justices (2002-2003)

-Chairman, Resolutions Committee, U.S. Conference of Chief Justices (former)

-Member, Asia Pacific Conferences of Chief Justices

-Member, CNMI Federal Bench Council

-Member, World Jurist Association

-Honorary Chairman of the Northern Marianas Judiciary Historical Society

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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