The Northern Mariana Islands comprise all of the Mariana Islands chain in the northwest Pacific except for the island of Guam. On the map you will find the Northern Mariana Islands running along 145E Longitude, beginning at 14N Latitude, which is about 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) west of Hawaii, and about 1,250 miles (2,012 kilometers) southeast of Tokyo Japan. There are three principal populated islands in the Northern Mariana Islands: Saipan, Tinian and Rota Island.
The Northern Mariana Islands are a United States Commonwealth (The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or "CNMI"), having a United States political status similar to that of Puerto Rico. Under the terms of the "Covenant" agreement that created the Commonwealth, CNMI citizens have U.S. citizenship, and the CNMI is subject to U.S. federal laws except for certain Tax laws that are subject to local CNMI control. The CNMI has an elected Governor, Legislature and Municipal leaders; and the CNMI Judicial Branch has a Superior Court and a Commonwealth Supreme Court. Saipan Island is the Capital of the CNMI.
The Northern Mariana Islands were populated by native Chamorros and Carolinians before being colonized by Spain, then Germany, and then Japan. In June 1944 a major battle of World War II was fought at Saipan and Tinian Islands, and in August 1945 the B-29 "Enola Gay" flew from Tinian Island to drop the first atomic weapon on Japan. At the conclusion of World War II the United States Government administered the Northern Mariana Islands and other parts of Micronesia as the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1975 residents of the Northern Mariana Islands voted to become a U.S. Commonwealth, and withdraw from the U.N. Trust Territory.
The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands was established by an act of Congress in 1977 and became operational in January, 1978. It sits on the island of Saipan, in the CNMI, but may also sit at other places within the Commonwealth. The District Court has the same jurisdiction to hear federal cases as United States District Courts, including bankruptcy cases. Appeals are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Judges of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands are appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, to ten-year terms or until a successor is chosen and qualified. The first District Court judge was the Honorable Alfred Laureta, who served from 1978 until 1988. His successor, the Honorable Alex R. Munson, was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate in 1988. Judge Munson was nominated for a second ten-year term by President William J. Clinton and was confirmed by the Senate in 1998. In February, 2010, Judge Munson retired from the bench after twenty-eight years of service in the legal community, including his service as Chief Justice of the High Court of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1982 to 1988.
On January 26, 2011, President Barack Obama nominated the Honorable Ramona Villagomez Manglona. Judge Manglona's nomination was confirmed by the Senate on July 27, 2011. On July 29, 2011, President Obama signed the commission, which was the official act of appointment of Judge Manglona to the District Court. Judge Manglona assumed office as Chief Judge on July 30, 2011. Chief Judge Manglona is the first person from the Northern Mariana Islands to serve as a federal judge.
In 2013, Heather L. Kennedy became Clerk of Court on April 15, 2013. On June 11, 2013, Chief Judge, Ramona Villagomez Manglona, appointed Heather L. Kennedy to serve as a Magistrate Judge. Judge Kennedy is the first Magistrate Judge for the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.
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