By Jacob Nakamura
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero says she was not consulted by President Trump on his appointment of Superior Court of Guam Judge Maria Cenzon as the next chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Guam. Governors have traditionally nominated prospects for presidential appointment to the federal bench on Guam.
The governor, a Democrat, lamented the timing of her appointment in what she described as the waning days of the Trump presidency and an uncertain future for the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Cenzon will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before January in order for her appointment to be made final to the court. If confirmed, she will replace Frances Tydingco-Gatewood. The Senate is controlled by Republicans, the same political party Mr. Trump leads, but the balance of its power in January depend on two runoff elections in the state of Georgia.
"We have nothing but respect for any person nominated to serve in such an important capacity," Ms. Leon Guerrero said. "Unfortunately, given the waning hours of the current administration, we were not a part of the normal consultation process associated with other judicial nominees in the past and that’s important for the people of Guam.
"With the upcoming holiday recess, a Senate majority up for grabs, and a coming Presidential transition, we hope that all critical decisions involving Guam are addressed deliberately and without the rush associated with an outgoing administration." - Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero
Democratic Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje expressed his well wishes to Ms. Cenzon on her appointment.
"I know Judge Cenzon to be a good and honorable person," Mr. Terlaje said. "I am certain she will serve the people of Guam well in any post she chooses to assume.”
Democratic Party of Guam chairwoman Sarah Thomas Nededog said her party is preparing a statement. Kandit is waiting for responses from other Democratic senators, including Speaker Tina Muna Barnes.
The Republican Party of Guam and at least two Republican senators have joined the Filipino Community of Guam in congratulating Ms. Cenzon's appointment, each leader expressing excitement and hope for her swift confirmation.
"I would like to offer my sincerest Congratulations Judge Maria Cenzon on her appointment by President Trump," Republican legislative leader Sen. Telo Taitague said. "I had the pleasure of working with Maria while we served under the Calvo administration. During which time I had no doubt her compassion, hard work and wisdom would take her to a position of great trust. I wish her and her family the very best."
Ms. Taitague served with Ms. Cenzon on former Gov. Eddie Calvo's senior staff. Taitague was Calvo's legislative liaison and Cenzon was his chief legal counsel. The two worked daily together until Mr. Calvo appointed Ms. Cenzon to the Superior Court of Guam in 2012.
Republican Sen. Jim Moylan offered his hope of swift Senate confirmation of the Trump appointment as he expressed his excitement about the news.
"It was wonderful to hear of the news this morning that President Donald Trump has nominated Guam's very own, Judge Maria Cenzon, to serve on the bench of the U.S. District Court of Guam. I have gotten to know Judge Cenzon over the years as a person of respect, and one who will being fairness to the process.
"This is certainly a great honor for Judge Cenzon and her family, and I would like to wish her children, along with her parents, a hearty congratulations as well. Just to add, her parents are an adorable and inseparable couple, and have always been proud parents that speak endlessly of their children’s accomplishments.
"I do hope that the Senate expedites Judge Cenzon’s nomination package, so that she can serve the people of Guam on the bench of the US District Court of Guam with a similar display of honor as she did sitting on the bench of the Guam Superior Court. Congratulations Maria." - Sen. Jim Moylan
The Republican Party of Guam itself issued a statement of congratulations and excitement about Ms. Cenzon's appointment:
"The Republican Party of Guam is elated by President Donald Trump’s nomination of Guam Superior Court Judge Maria B. Cenzon to serve on the bench of the United States District Court of Guam.
'Judge Cenzon, who was originally nominated by former Governor Eddie Baza Calvo to serve on the Superior Court of Guam bench in 2012, is a woman of integrity who will bring her profound professionalism to the federal district court, as well as her legal experience in both the public and private sectors. She not only served as Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Calvo prior to the appointment, but has also practiced law for 17 years, primarily in private practice.
"A proud mother of two, Judge Cenzon is a daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, who was born and raised in Guam. Upon her graduation from the Academy of our Lady of Guam, Judge Cenzon completed her undergraduate studies at Marquette University, and then later earned her law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. This nomination not only serves as an honored milestone in the career of Judge Cenzon but evidences a noble accomplishment for her family who have embraced such words as hard work, sacrifice, education, and dedication over the years.
"The Republican Party of Guam congratulates Judge Cenzon and her family, and urges the United States Senate to expeditiously confirm her nomination, so that another daughter of Guam can proudly serve the island community and the nation on the bench of the United States District Court of Guam." - statement from the Republican Party of Guam
Ms. Cenzon has been a local court judge since late 2012 after former Gov. Eddie Calvo appointed her to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of former Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. Prior to her appointment, she served as the governor's chief legal counsel and had been practicing law on Guam for 17 years by 2012, mostly in private practice.
She is a 1988 graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam. She then went on to major in English and minor in business administration, criminology, and philosophy at Marquette University in Wisconsin in 1992. She earned her law degree in 1996 from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Ms. Cenzon was unanimously confirmed by the Guam Legislature to serve as a local court judge and was lauded in several local, national, and international publications for her achievements.
The question of who will replace Ms. Tydingco-Gatewood has raged for years. Former President Barack Obama nominated her for a second term in 2016, but the Senate refused to confirm her appointment. No one has been named since.
Ms. Cenzon is the local-born daughter of Philippine immigrants Ed and Nita Cenzon, who are originally from the Philippine province of Pampanga. Mr. Cenzon is fluent in the Chamorro language, and both her parents are staples in the Catholic community on Guam.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs in December 2012 under then-President Benigno Aquino III praised her appointment and confirmation to the local bench as the first Filipino-American/Guamanian to sit as Superior Court of Guam judge.
James Robinson, the president of the Filipino Community of Guam said he is elated by the news President Trump will be nominating the first Filipina to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Guam.
"As president of the Filipino Community of Guam, I am very very proud to hear of the nomination of Judge Maria Cenzon as the next judge [of the District Court]," Mr. Robinson told Kandit News. "And as president I am in favor, 100 percent, of her nomination. She is highly qualified for this position."
"The Filipino Community of Guam is proud to be in support of Judge Maria Cenzon’s nomination to the District Court of Guam," said Dr. Leah Beth Nahalowaa, a member of the Board of Trustees of the FCG. "She is hardworking and capable judge who will continue serving in the District Court of Guam."
If confirmed, Ms. Cenzon will be the first Filipina to hold court on the federal bench in the Marianas.