As part of its Law Day Proclamation, the Supreme Court honored seven individuals that have sacrificed their time and energy to further the CNMI High School Mock Trial Program. The court awarded the Golden Gavel Award to Lucia Linda Blanco-Maratita, Esq., Donald R. Cohen, Bernadita B. Dela Cruz, Galvin S. Deleon Guerrero, Suzanne M. Steffey, Joseph L.G. Taijeron, Jr., Esq., and Robert Tenorio Torres, Esq. These individuals have made tremendous contributions to the mock trial program for over ten years.
In 2000, Blanco-Maratita, who had recently returned to the CNMI from law school to practice law in the Commonwealth, encouraged Tinian to create a mock trial team. Under her guidance, Tinian High School won the CNMI High School Mock Trial Competition and represented the CNMI at the national championship competition in South Carolina. Blanco-Maratita has continued to coach Tinian High School and has taken that team to nationals five times.
Cohen has served as the teacher coach for Marianas High School for over a decade. He has passionately led the MHS teams in the CNMI High School Mock Trial Competition. Cohen has seen the MHS team become a contender—the last two years MHS has placed as the runner-up in very competitive final rounds. This year, MHS received the most individual awards and the Supreme Court Professionalism Award.
Dela Cruz began volunteering shortly after the inception of the program. She has, throughout those years, filled numerous roles of increasing responsibility and has performed all tasks necessary to ensure a smooth and fair competition. This year, Dela Cruz joined the program’s steering committee and has taken on the added responsibilities of that role. There, she and CNMI Bar Association executive director Suzanne Steffey, who is also a member of the program’s steering committee, led the fundraising initiative for the mock trial program. Steffy has assisted in the program’s organization and planning for the last 10 years.
Guerrero and Taijeron are coaching this year’s CNMI mock trial champion, Mount Carmel School at the National High School Mock Trial Championship. Guerrero has coached Mount Carmel School’s team for over a decade. Taijeron began coaching Mount Carmel in 2003. This pair of Golden Gavel Award recipients has led the Mount Carmel team to the national championship five times.
In 1999, Torres coached Mount Carmel School’s championship team in the CNMI’s first mock trial competition. Torres has since coached Saipan Southern High School and, most recently, Grace Christian Academy. He has also served as an instructor at the Judiciary’s Mock Trial Academy and as a mock trial judge.
“The Golden Gavel Award was awarded by the Supreme Court this year to recognize the great contribution these seven individuals have made to the program,” said Mock Trial coordinator Sheila Trianni.
The Mock Trial Program has countless volunteers that have given thousands of hours over the life of the program. In addition to the volunteer coaches, the program would not be possible without the volunteers that assist in planning and organizing the competition.
“The Supreme Court appreciates all of the time, effort, and passion these recipients, and all of the volunteers in the program, have contributed over the past eighteen years,” said Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro.