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Superior Court


The Commonwealth's Superior Court

is the Commonwealth's trial court. The Superior Court has general jurisdiction. This means the court hears both civil and criminal cases. A Superior Court decision can only be appealed to the Commonwealth Supreme Court.

The Superior Court generally holds trials in the Guma’ Hustisia in Saipan, however, proceedings are periodically conducted in Rota and Tinian. The proceedings are governed by the applicable court rule; for example, criminal cases are governed by the NMI Rules of Criminal Procedure and civil cases are governed by the NMI Rules of Civil Procedure. Each case is heard by one judge.

Judges are appointed by the governor, confirmed by the Commonwealth Senate, and serve six year terms. After their first term, a judge wishing to serve another term must receive voter approval in a retention proposition presented on a general election ballot.

The Office of the Clerk of Court

performs a myriad of detailed responsibilities in support of the Superior Court’s constitutional function. All civil, criminal, family, and small claims cases and agency appeals are initiated, maintained, and disposed of by the Chief Clerk’s Office. It is tasked with the processing of data logs, custodianship, and maintains certification standards of all documents lodged or filed, and provides the personnel to oversee hearings and courtroom management in the Commonwealth’s seven court-rooms. Police clearances and copies of public records of the court can be obtained at the Clerk of Court’s Office.

Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja 

Presiding Judge Roberto Camacho Naraja was born on Saipan on July 17, 1955.  He graduated from George Washington Senior High School on Guam, in 1975. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the California Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks, California, in 1979, and he graduated with a Juris Doctor degree from Gonzaga School of Law in Spokane, Washington, in 1982.  He is married to Carmen Francesca V. Deleon Guerrero Naraja, and they have five children (Nikita, Matilde, Robert Jr., Thomasa, and Leopoldo) and three grandchildren (Lorenzo, Jacob, and Noah).

From September 1983 to March 1984, Presiding Judge Naraja served as Assistant Legal Counsel to the CNMI Resident Representative to Washington, D.C.  From April 1984 to July 1986, he worked as an Assistant Public Defender for the CNMI Office of the Public Defender.  In September 1986, he began working as an Assistant Attorney General for the CNMI Office of the Attorney General.   In July 1989, Presiding Judge Naraja returned to the CNMI Office of the Public Defender, this time as Chief Public Defender and remained in this role until February 1990.  At this time, he returned to the Office of the Attorney as the Acting Attorney General until April 1990, at which point, Presiding Judge Naraja became the Attorney General for the CNMI, a position which he held until January 1994.

Following his career in the CNMI Government, Presiding Judge Naraja ventured into private practice establishing the Law Office of Robert C. Naraja, which existed from January 1994 until November 2001.

Presiding Judge Naraja ascended to the CNMI Superior Court bench and served as an Associate Judge from November 2001 to March 2003, at which point he became Presiding Judge for the CNMI Superior Court.  He was sworn in as Presiding Judge on March 28, 2003.  This is his current position.  In January 2010, he began serving as a Designated Judge for the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, a position he still serves.  

Since 2003, Presiding Judge Naraja has been serving, and continues to serve, as a member of the Pacific Judicial Council.  From February 2002 until April 2003, Presiding Judge Naraja served as the Chairman of the Child Support Guidelines Committee .  In May of 2002, he added the role of Chairman for the Juvenile Rules Committee, a position he held until April of 2003.  His untiring efforts did not end there.  In July of 2002, Presiding Judge Naraja became the Chairman of the Juvenile Justice Task Force, and remained in that position until April of 2003.  In 2007, Presiding Judge Naraja became a member, and he continues to be a member, of the Judicial Council of the CNMI Judiciary. In 2014, after taking back the Juvenile Docket, Presiding Judge Naraja has begun re-organizing the Juvenile Justice Task Force.

Associate Judge David A. Wiseman 

Judge David A. Wiseman ascended to the bench in March of 2001 and is the fifteenth Judge confirmed to sit on the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands since the inception of the Commonwealth in 1978. Judge Wiseman also served the Commonwealth Judiciary as a Special Judge from 1995-2001. Both positions required nominations of the Governor subject to the advice and consent of Senate.

Judge Wiseman came to the CNMI in 1977, arriving on July 7, 1977 or 7-7-77, which was the transition period of the former Trust Territory District of the Northern Mariana Islands into the Commonwealth government. He and his wife Faythe were field enrolled as Peace Corps Volunteers and he served as a U.S. Peace Corps Attorney first assigned to the Pre-Commonwealth, Fifth Marianas District Legislature and then to the Pre-Commonwealth Mayor and Municipality of Rota.

After Peace Corps Judge Wiseman worked for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Commonwealth Legislature as a legal counsel and then in private practice represented several Government agencies before ascending to the bench.

He has been successfully retained twice for his 2nd and 3rd term of office, the latter which he is presently serving. Judge Wiseman also serves as a designated judge of the U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands. He is appointed on an annual basis by the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and is presently serving on his 11th consecutive annual appointment.

Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo 

Judge Govendo was born in Syracuse New York on January 28, 1945, has been a resident of the Northern Marianas since 1976. In 1966, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Alfred University inAlfred, New York. In 1969, he obtained his Juris Doctorfrom the University of Toledo College of Law, in Toledo, Ohio.

After law school, Judge Govendo became a general practitioner in Redondo Beach, California, and worked part-time as a senior staff attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of the South Bar Association. Upon moving to the Western Pacific, he served as District Attorney in Palau and as Assistant Attorney General on Saipan during the Trust Territory period. He also served as Assistant Legislative Counsel for the Fifth Northern Marianas District Legislature and was legal counsel for the Department of Natural
Resources, Board of Elections and Civil Service Commission.

Throughout most of his career on Saipan, Judge Govendo has been a private practice lawyer handling a wide variety of cases. He served as legal counsel for Northern Marianas College for over a decade.

In 1985, Judge Govendo helped organize the Citizens Committee Against Nuclear Waste Dumping In The Ocean, and participated as an adviser to the Greenpeace delegation at the London Dumping Convention in a successful effort to thwart the Japanese government's plan to dump low level nuclear waste in the ocean 600 miles north of Saipan. He has been active in public land, economic development and environmental matters, both as an attorney and as a commentator. He was also Saipan's first television talk show host on Saipan Cable Forum.

Since 2003, Judge Govendo has been the primary Family Court Judge in the Northern Marianas, handling divorce, paternity, custody, adoption, wardship, guardian and domestic violence cases. He has helped raised the community's awareness about domestic violence and is responsible for setting up the Family Court's Separating Parents Program, which is designed to help parents dealing with their children during a divorce or separation. Judge Govendo is married to Domitilia Camacho Govendo. They have one child, Roger Syd Camacho Govendo. 

Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho 

Judge Joseph James Norita Camacho ascended to the bench on November 10, 2011. Judge Camacho was admitted to practice law in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Commonwealth Courts.

Judge Camacho is a proud graduate of the Northern Marianas College, where he received his Associate of Arts degree. He went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in History from San Jose State University, a Masters of Public Administration from Seattle University, and a Juris Doctor from Gonzaga University School of Law.

Judge Camacho served as a prosecutor for the CNMI Office of the Attorney General before establishing his own law firm. In 2007, he was elected to the 16th CNMI House of Representatives where he served as House Floor Leader.

Judge Camacho has a long-standing commitment to public service in the Commonwealth. He was a member of the Law Enforcement Explorer Program in his youth, a police officer with the CNMI Department of Public Safety (8th Police Academy), and an adjunct instructor at Northern Marianas College. He continues to support programs that educate youth and the community about the law, including mock trial programs and the Summer Pre-Law Program.

Associate Judge Teresa K. Kim-Tenorio 

Judge Kim-Tenorio ascended to the bench on December 22, 2013.  In 1997, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  In May of 2001, she graduated from New England School of Law with her Juris Doctor degree; and is licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Judge Kim-Tenorio served as the legal counsel for the Honorable Eloy S. Inos, Governor of the CNMI, from February 2013 until her ascension in December 2013.  Prior to that, she served as the legal counsel for the CNMI Lieutenant Governor, the CNMI Legislature, and was also in private practice.

Judge Kim-Tenorio greatly enjoys giving back to her community by volunteering much of her personal time to various organizations.  Prior to her ascension, she served as a board member for the NMI Chapter of the American Red Cross for almost 9 years; was an officer for the Marianas High School’s Parent Teacher Association (the largest high school in the CNMI), a coordinator on the CNMI High School Mock Trial competition; as well as a trustee for the CNMI Judiciary Historical Society since 2005.
Judge Kim-Tenorio is the daughter of Yong Chan and Jin Soon Kim; and has two siblings – Hea Joung Kim and Angela Kim. She is married to Perry John Pangelinan Tenorio and together have four sons (Justis, Sunho, Pedro, and Sunjoon).
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