View more photos for the History of the Guam Courts entry here.

Each of us wants a fair and objective court system that will protect our rights—one that will neutrally determine the truth of criminal allegations and factual disputes. We expect our judges to rise above personal prejudices and to remain beyond political concern. In order for the Judiciary to accomplish our duty, we must—of necessity—be free from the trappings of power, of influence, of relationships, of emotions du jour. The weight of that awesome responsibility is what we have perhaps idealistically chosen. But in a real sense, that is the lonely—and often misunderstood—solemn duty of an independent Judiciary.

Chief Justice Peter C. Siguenza, Jr.
State of the Judiciary Address, 1 May 1998

Current Court system of Guam set up in 1950

All nations operate under a system of laws that generally direct how people live, work, do business, recreate, worship or engage in any other kinds of social interactions. Laws necessarily help societies and governments maintain order. Laws, however, need courts in order to help interpret and apply laws, particularly when individual parties, government units, or businesses are in conflict or dispute. Courts help resolve these disputes. They also uphold limitations to government and protect citizens from abuse. They protect rights, including those of individuals who cannot protect themselves.

The court system in Guam was set forth by the signing of the Organic Act of Guam in 1950. The Organic Act also provided the foundation of Guam’s modern local government. Until the establishment of the judiciary, Guam laws were adjudicated in the local courts established under the American naval administration. The Organic Act, therefore, provided the first meaningful opportunity for the people of Guam to create, administer and arbitrate policy and laws for themselves.

Ancient Era

Clearly, the CHamoru/Chamorro people had numerous traditional laws and customs before the arrival of the Spanish and the introduction of Catholicism in the late 1600s. These laws were based on the cultural values and norms that allowed the people to thrive in the Marianas for thousands of years. They had rules determining the use of land and ocean resources and lines of inheritance. They had rituals and laws for marriage, as well as specific norms of behavior between genders and among different social status groups. They had no formal courts as we know them, but instead relied on leadership councils of elders to help resolve conflicts, make decisions about warfare and negotiate terms of peace. These laws changed with Spanish colonization.

Spanish Era

As a territory of Spain, the Spanish crown had the absolute authority over the Mariana Islands. The Council of Indies was the advisory and administrative body for all of Spain’s overseas territories. In 1679, the Council of Indies established the administrative jurisdiction of the Mariana Islands under the Viceroyalty of New Spain and the Audiencia (courts) of the Philippine Islands.

The legal system of the Marianas, thus, fell under the ecclesiastical law of the Catholic Church and the 1680 Spanish civil and criminal code known as the Law of the Indies. The Governor of Guam had combined civil and military responsibilities, issuing orders by edict and acting as judge as well as chief of police. Justice under the Spanish was usually severe and could include various kinds of punishment and retribution, such as fines, confiscation of property, forced labor, lashings and executions.

The governor was assisted in managing the different villages or pueblos by an alcalde who maintained order as well as maintained roads and bridges in his village and overseeing the labor of the CHamoru people. In the 1790s, the alcade was still appointed by the governor, but was assisted by a gobenadorcillo selected from a list of CHamoru elites or principales derived from the CHamorus in each village.

In 1844, the government in Spain decided to organize the judicial system, and issued a Royal Decree stating that judges in the courts of Manila would have a law degree. Guam had a judge appointed to handle affairs in the island; however, he resigned believing the Marianas had such a small number of lawsuits and criminal and civil cases they could do without a judge with a law degree. A decree in 1854 abolished the court of first instance (i.e., the court where cases are tried or proceedings initiated) and the responsibilities of administering judicial matters fell again on the Governor. At the time, Governor Felipe de la Corte, himself a lawyer, recommended the separation of the judiciary and the governor, especially when Spain determined to make Guam a penal colony.

The assassination of Governor Angel de Pazos y Vela Hidalgo in 1884 led to reforms of the judiciary system. In 1885, a royal decree was enacted to establish CHamoru justices-of-the-peace to be appointed by the governor. The Spanish-Philippine Law of Civil Procedure became the law of the land in the Marianas. The gobernadorcillo by this time had authority to judge cases of robbery of goods up to 40 pesos in value and could order sentences of up to 10 days and fines up to five pesos. He could also initiate proceedings of criminal cases, but only with officials of the government present.

However, more serious judicial matters were still the purview of the governor, although, as the governor was not a professional judge, he would still need to await confirmation from the audiencia in the Philippines before meting out important sentences.

By the time of the American takeover of Guam in 1898, many of the existing laws were used by the United States to reorganize the local government, including the Spanish Penal Code, the Law of Civil Procedure, and the Spanish Mortgage Law, which was modified several times prior to World War II.

US Naval Administration

In 1898 Guam laws were adjudicated in the local courts established under the American naval administration. However, the Spanish legal system was kept largely in place and replaced only piecemeal when it suited the operations of the new military government.

The naval governor was appointed by the President of the United States and was to answer only to the President, who was the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. The governor held supreme legislative, executive and judicial authority of the island. In 1900 Guam’s first American governor, Richard Leary, established the Supreme Court of Guam as a five-man appellate court with the governor as Presiding Justice.

The transition from the Spanish to the Navy’s legal system for Guam began in 1903, when Governor W. E. Sewell’s General Order 69 formalized Guam’s judicial system and instituted new land tax rates, replacing the Spanish land tax rates. He also reformed prison laws, game laws and controls over commercial corporations, as well as revised the Criminal Code. According to G.O. 69, the judicial system was “vested in a Supreme Court, Courts of First Instance and Courts and Justices of the Peace…and of such municipal courts and special tribunals as may hereafter be established.” The order also listed the powers and responsibilities of members of the court, including judges and peace officers. Appeals did not go beyond the Supreme Court of Guam.

In 1905, Governor GL Dyer abolished the Supreme Court of the island and replaced it with the Court of Appeals. The Spanish titles including gobernadorcillo were replaced with English equivalents. CHamorus who could speak Spanish and English (and a few elite Filipino political exiles) were appointed to serve in the courts. Under the naval administration, this was the island’s highest court of law, consisting of a chief justice and two associate justices. The trial court, or island court, had one judge who was usually CHamoru. A police court that tried minor offenses was put in place around 1906 and was also presided over by a CHamoru judge.

By 1910, Governor EJ Dorn established the Island Court, with two judges, to replace the court of first instance and its one judge. Dorn replaced all the CHamoru justices with commissioned officers from the US Navy and the Marine Corps. There was no trial by jury, and still, no court of appeals beyond Guam. A backlog in trial cases led to the creation of the first public prosecutor, the island attorney, later called the attorney general, to help relieve the judge of investigatory functions. An additional court for trying equity cases was established in 1916 and was presided over by an officer of the Navy.

Eventually, CHamoru justices were brought back into the court system. Pale’ Eric Forbes presents a look at the slate of court officials in the early 1900s on his blog (paleric, The courthouse was located in Hagåtña, at the corner of present-day Skinner Plaza, between the Guam Museum and the Hagåtña Post Office. It was called the Tribunal or I Tribunåt. Spanish resident Pedro Duarte was the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, with Gregorio Perez and Jesus Torres serving as Associate Justices and Joaquin Perez and Jose Taitano as Supplementary Associate Justices. Manuel Sablan served as clerk of courts. A Filipino exile, Pancracio Palting, headed the Island Court, and the island attorney in charge of prosecuting cases was Tomas Calvo Anderson. In 1918, CHamorus justices of the court included Judges Joaquin Cruz Perez, Vicente P. Camacho, Luis de Torres, AT Perez, and Jose Roberto.

In 1929, the judiciary was housed on the second floor of the Coontz building. There were separate offices for the department head and judges of the Island Court and Police Court, rooms for files and records, and two courtrooms.

Up until the 1930s, Guam’s status as a colony of the US and a military base, with a mix of Spanish era codes and military codes, presented legal conundrums, from the lack of appeals outside Guam to legal jurisdiction and the application of civil laws to military personnel stationed on the island. It was not until 1933, however, when Governor George Alexander reorganized the judicial system, replacing previous laws with new codes based on California law. The 1933 Code of Civil Procedure defined the courts under the American court system. The new courts were the Police Court, Justice Court, Island Court and Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals was the highest court in Guam with five judges appointed by the governor—the presiding justice who was a naval officer, two other naval officers and two Guamanian judges—but there was no requirement for justices to be lawyers or qualified in matters of law.

The Court of Appeals heard all criminal, civil and special cases sent by the Island Court and Justice Court, and issued writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and habeas corpus among others. The Island Court tried both civil and criminal cases, with some exceptions. The Island Court had jurisdiction over matters including probate, guardianship, trusteeships and divorces and marriage annulments. The Justice Court was presided over by one Guamanian judge and handled misdemeanor criminal cases involving fines over $100 and more than six months imprisonment, as well as small damages claims, while the Police Court handled misdemeanor criminal cases valued as less than $100 and involving less than six months imprisonment, and violations of sanitation, traffic and drunkenness. Prison sentences of more than one year ordered by the Island Court had to be reviewed and approved by the Court of Appeals.

Smaller violations such as public drunkenness and cases involving fines less than $5 in the outlying villages could usually be handled by the municipal commissioners. The Attorney General was an appointed naval officer and administered the Department of Law, with three appointed Guamanian attorneys to assist. The Department of Law also handled requests for land transfers and requests for sales. Sales for real property needed approval of the governor and investigated by the island attorney.

The use of prior Spanish laws and California codes still made for a confusing mix of laws to enforce and to try cases effectively, with boards and agencies often creating their own rules and operations. By 1937, the first printing of the Codes of Guam was issued but the lack of a compiler of laws made the Codes of Guam incomplete.

World War II-Japanese Occupation

The courts of Guam were not active during the Japanese Occupation of Guam in World War II from December 1941 to July 1944. Under Japanese rule, the military commander held supreme rights of legislature, judiciary and administration in Guam. The Minseibu, the division of the Navy in charge of civil affairs, administered all areas including police, agriculture, religion and the judiciary. The island was divided into 16 districts and municipal commissioners were put in place as village headmen (sanchō) to help communicate orders and rules between the Japanese and the CHamoru people. Unlike the years under the American administration, where the village commissioners participated in the judicial system, under the Japanese, the commissioners were just to transmit orders. The Order Regarding Court Management gave authority to a Japanese official known as the district branch chief of the Nan’yōchō to “sentence islanders to less than a year in prison or detention. He could also convert prison time to service time.”

The Navy’s Outline of Conduct of Military Administration gave the Military Offenses Tribunal jurisdiction over the CHamorus who violated military orders. Judicial power over civil affairs was held by the Minseibu chief. In 1944 towards the end of the occupation, the pre-war island attorney, Edward Duenas, was beheaded by the Japanese along with Father Jesus B. Duenas in Tai, Mangilao.

Immediate Postwar Courts

After the liberation by American forces, a state of emergency martial law was declared with Exception Military Courts set up for Guam civilians in 1946. A naval officer presided over the Summary Provost Court which had jurisdiction over cases that involved less than one year in prison and less than $100 fine. The Superior Provost Court had at least one officer and jurisdiction over cases with unlimited fines and less than 10 years imprisonment. The Military Commission was the highest court and tried the most serious crimes. There were no juries, nor a higher court of appeal, but the military governor’s legal staff reviewed all cases and the Secretary of the Navy had to approve sentences before they were carried out.

Two Guamanian judges served in the postwar Navy courts: Vicente P. Camacho and Jose C. Manibusan. Land claims issues dominated the courts as CHamorus made claims for land lost or damaged property or land taken away by the military government for military use through the passage of P.L. 594, the Land Acquisition Act. The Land and Claims Commission, set up to address the land issues, took advantage of the lack of experienced private attorneys to represent the interests of CHamoru landowners, but the CHamoru landowners called out the bias of the commission and the Navy-appointed Judge as taking the side of the military during proceedings.

In 1947, the reinstituted Guam Congress approved the establishment of a Superior Court, but, dissatisfied with the Navy’s judge and the lack of CHamoru judges on the court, they called for its abolishment the following year. The bill to abolish the court, however, was vetoed by Governor Charles A. Pownall. Eventually, relations between the Guam Congress and the military administration over land, immigration, differential pay scales and other issues deteriorated to the point that the White House and Congress finally relented to relieving the military of its control over Guam. However, before the signing of the Organic Act in 1950, the military and federal government had taken over about one-third of the island’s land.

New government and new courts under the Organic Act of Guam

The signing of the Organic Act of Guam in August 1950 effectively gave the people of Guam US citizenship and the opportunity for limited self-government. The executive, legislative and judicial branches, their structure, powers and responsibilities, were laid out in the Organic Act, thus providing the foundation for Guam’s modern local government.

The judicial branch was set forth by Section 22-a with the establishment of the District Court of Guam. The Superior Court was dissolved and the District Court took over all its cases. The District Court judge was to be appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The District Court had jurisdiction for all cases arising from local and federal laws including constitutional issues, international treaties and other federal matters, as well as civil cases of more than $2,000 in value and all felony criminal cases. Appeals went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, then on to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The first District Court judge was Paul Shriver of Colorado. Other positions were created for the court under the Department of Justice, including US district attorney and US marshal.

Section 22 also gave the Government of Guam the authority to create local courts. In 1951, the First Guam Legislature hired Attorney John Bohn who, along with former Court of Appeals Judge Albert Maris, wrote the Judiciary Act of Guam to help modernize and reorganize the court system. The act defined the jurisdictions and powers of the courts. It established the Judicial Council, composed of the judge of the District Court as chair; the chief judge of the Island Court, the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary from the Guam Legislature, the attorney general of Guam and the president of the Guam Bar Association.

Before the war, there had been four courts: the Court of Appeals, the Island Court, the Justice Court and Police Court. The Judiciary Act abolished the Justice Court and the traffic branch of the Police Court, and reduced the number of local courts to three—the Island Court for trials of civil and criminal cases; the Police Court for traffic cases; and the Commissioners Court to handle matters of the justice-of-the-peace. The Commissioners Court was presided over by the commissioners or mayors of each municipality, handling petty offenses and fines less than $5. The Island Court heard misdemeanors and civil cases less than $2,000. The District Court heard civil cases valuing more than $2,000 and had jurisdiction over all felonies. Appeals from the Island Court were heard by the District Court of Guam. Criminal misdemeanors with fines less than $100 and sentences less than six months were the purview of the Police court. In 1952, the First Guam Legislature also passed a Juvenile Delinquency Act which changed the handling of juvenile offenders as adult criminals. The Juvenile Court was part of the Island Court.

Importantly, the Judiciary Act also outlined the powers, qualifications and disqualification of judges, as well as the duties and positions of court personnel, including clerks, reporters, marshalls, the attorney general and the prosecuting attorney. Requirements were also put in place as to who could actually practice law in Guam, as well as a probation system for court members.

In 1953, Bohn re-codified the laws of Guam, taking the jumble of old statutes, orders and acts from the naval administration and creating the Code of Guam. The new code included penal, civil, probate and civil procedure codes. Bohn published the Guam Code annually until 1974.

The Island Court’s first senior judge was Jose C. Manibusan, with Vicente Reyes, and Francisco L.G. Lujan who oversaw the Police Court. The Police Court was abolished after the retirement of Francisco LG Lujan in 1960 and the duties were taken over by the Island Court. With the increase in cases, Joaquin C. Perez was added to the roster of judges on the Island Court. He was elevated as senior judge of the Island Court upon Manibusan’s retirement and Cristobal C. Duenas then replaced Perez. Judge Duenas would eventually be the first CHamoru appointed to serve as District Court judge in 1969.

Trial by jury

At the time of its implementation, the Organic Act was deemed incomplete. Regarding the judicial system, trials by jury and rights to grand jury indictment had been omitted, given the small size of Guam’s population and the notion that familial relationships would make it difficult to find impartial jurors. However, the criminal case of Government of Guam v. Hatchett and the ruling by the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit specifically pointed out that the prosecution of a felony (Hatchett was arrested on a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter) must be brought by grand jury indictments (Hatchett had not been indicted by a grand jury) unless waived by the accused. As a result of this decision, the Third Guam Legislature put in place P.L. 42 to provide a jury system for the island courts.

1974 Court Reorganization Act

In 1974, the 12th Guam Legislature passed the Court Reorganization Act (P. L. 12-85) which completely abolished the Police and Commissioners courts. The Island Court became the Superior Court of Guam and the title of senior judge was changed to Presiding Judge. Appeals from Superior Court were sent to the District Court. Joaquin Perez was named the first Presiding Judge and was succeeded later by Paul J. Abbate, Jr.; the judges from the Island Court and Police Court were assigned to the Superior Court. An office for the Compiler of Laws was also established to keep track of changes to the Guam Code that had previously been organized and published by John Bohn since the 1950s.

The Court Reorganization Act also provided for the establishment of the Supreme Court of Guam. Presiding Judge Perez became the first Chief Justice. However, the Act was challenged in the District Court of Guam with arguments that the Legislature had overstepped its authority in creating the Supreme Court. In 1975, the House Committee on the Judiciary of the 94th Congress held a hearing on H.R. 4580, submitted by Guam Delegate Antonio Won Pat, to amend the Organic Act of Guam to provide for the reorganization of the judicial system of Guam and the creation of the Supreme Court. In 1977, in the case Territory of Guam v. Olsen, 431 US 195 (1977) the US Supreme Court ruled that the Organic Act did not allow for the transfer of appellate jurisdiction from the District Court of Guam. The Supreme Court of Guam was subsequently abolished. H.R. 4580 was sent to the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs in 1976, but was not acted upon further.

Guam Courts: 1980s to today

The Guam Courts have grown in operations and services to meet the diverse needs of Guam’s growing population. In the late 1980s, the Superior Court expanded to include the General Administration, Financial Management, Marshalls, Probations, and the Courts and Ministerial Divisions. In 1987, the Guam Legislature began codifying all of Guam’s laws, while the Superior Court established the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court for Small Claims, and Child Support Rules. The Superior Court also began indexing decisions of the local courts as well as providing access to Westlaw, a national index of laws and court decisions.

With more than 300 attorneys on island in government and private practice, the court wanted to ensure that any attorney practicing law in Guam would be duly qualified. In 1988, the Board of Law Examiners, the administrators of the Bar Exam (the qualifying exam for practicing law in the states and territories), decided that any applicant wishing to practice law in Guam must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), based on a specific standard scoring system. The Legislature also enacted a law to disallow unapproved American Bar Association Law School graduates from taking the Bar Exam straight out of graduate school.

In light of increasing cases among juvenile offenders, Judge Benjamin Cruz established the Family Court in 1987. A pre-adjudication diversion program was set up to help offenders not involved with serious crimes or felonies to go through an informal probation status before having to face the formal procedures of family court. In addition, parenting and other counseling programs were developed to help curb the rise in juvenile delinquency on the island and address associated problems with families and at home.

To address issues of overcrowding in prisons and detention centers, the Superior Court developed the Alternative Sentencing program, giving judges other options such as placing defendants in community service programs. In 1990, the program was expanded to offer defendants counseling services, including marriage reconciliation, parenting, alcohol treatment and juvenile crime and petty theft prevention. The Client Services division was also formed to provide counseling and psychological services, and to recommend and provide treatment to criminal offenders, victims and family members involved in violent crimes, such as sexual abuse and rape.

Other changes at the courts was P.L. 20-28, passed by the 20th Guam Legislature in 1989 to raise the filing limit in Small Claims Court from $1,000 to $10,000. The Guam Rule of Civil Procedure for Small Claims was also revised and ratified that year.

In 1990, at the urging of the Court, the Legislature passed a Victims Bill of Rights to address issues of restitution and to guarantee the expectation that offenders would be detained in custody, tried in court and punished. A Criminal Injuries Compensation Commission was put in place to help provide additional compensation of a victim that went above any court ordered restitution. The commission also provided a requirement that victims be notified that their assailant was finished with their jail term or being released. The 20th Guam Legislature also established a new Child Support Enforcement unit to help deal with the problem of collecting child support.

In 1994, the 22nd Guam Legislature increased the number of Superior Court judges to seven, including the Presiding Judge, through P.L. 22-75, to handle the increasing caseloads of the court system. Over the years, other specialty courts were put in place to address specific kinds of cases, including the Juvenile Drug Court (2002), Adult Drug Court (2004), Mental Health Court (2009), DWI Court (2011) and Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) (2020) .

Guam Supreme Court established

After the earlier attempt to establish a Supreme Court of Guam was quashed in 1977, the US Congress amended the Organic Act with the Omnibus Territories Act of 1984 to allow the territory to form a Supreme Court and for the Guam Legislature for create an appellate court to hear cases in Guam over which any court established by the US Constitution and laws of the US would not have exclusive jurisdiction. Included was a requirement that during the first 15 years of the establishment of the Guam Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit Court would maintain judicial overview in the appeals process. The Act, however, did not describe how the new judicial system would be administered.

In 1986, the people of Guam voted to change the island’s political status to a commonwealth and called for the removal of the 9th Circuit Court’s oversight mandated in the Omnibus Act and for the independence of Guam’s courts.

In late 1992, Senator Pilar Lujan, Chairwoman of the Legislative Judiciary Committee in the 21st Guam Legislature, led the passage of the Frank LG Lujan Memorial Court Reorganization Act (P.L. 21-147) to reestablish the Supreme Court of Guam. However, the Court was not created by the Organic Act and therefore, was subject to changes from the Guam Legislature. Indeed, within hours after the first judges were sworn in, the Legislature removed certain administrative powers of the Court over the local judiciary.

Nevertheless, efforts to establish the Judiciary as a third, independent branch of government continued. In the US Congress, Delegate Robert Underwood introduced legislation for a Unified Judicial System to be headed by the Supreme Court of Guam. The legislation was introduced in the 106th and 107th Congresses in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In April 2003, the 27th Guam Legislature tried to reorganize the judiciary as an independent, co-equal branch with Substitute Bill No. 48 (COR), but this effort was shot down by veto. Then, in June, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo introduced H.R. 2400 in the 108th Congress, but by October, the Legislature overrode the veto and P.L. 27-31 was passed, finally establishing a Unified Judiciary for Guam.

The following year, on 30 October 2004, Congress passed H.R. 2400 (P.L. 108-378) which formalized the Judiciary of Guam (Hustisian Guahan) as a co-equal branch of the Government of Guam. In this capacity, the Judiciary would be better able to administer its operations and protect individual freedoms and rights. It also placed the Supreme Court of Guam on equal footing with other state Supreme Courts. Appeals from the Guam Courts would go to the Supreme Court of Guam and not the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Appeals of Guam Supreme Court decisions would be taken to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, for review.

The Judicial Council, composed of all the full-time justices of the Supreme Court, the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court and a delegated Superior Court judge, is in charge of administering the Judiciary of Guam. The Council recommends policies and hearing appeals of all classified employees, among its other duties.

Superior Courthouse and Judicial Center

After World War II, a new courthouse was opened in Hagåtña, as the Coontz Building which housed the courts had been destroyed during the island’s Liberation. The courthouse was later transferred to the Guam Legislature building. Then, in 1968, a newly constructed courthouse opened on West O’Brien Drive across the Nieves Flores Memorial Public Library. But with all the expanding services and staff of the Courts of Guam, more room was needed.

In 1988, ground was broken on West Soledad in Hagåtña for an $11 million complex to house the Guam Judicial Center and to renovate the Superior Court Annex on West O’Brien Drive. The Judicial Center opened in 1996. The Supreme Court sits in the Monessa G. Lujan Memorial Courtroom on the Center’s third floor.

Appointment of Judges

District Court of Guam

Under a provision of the Organic Act the President of the United States appoints the Judge of the District Court of Guam, with the advice and consent of the US Senate. The District Court receives its funding from the federal government. Judges of the District Court are appointed to a 10-year term, which is renewable.

Superior Court of Guam

Judges of the Superior Court of Guam are appointed by the Governor of Guam with the advice and consent of the Guam Legislature. Judges serve a term of eight years. After this time, if a judge wishes to remain, their name is placed on the ballot of a general election. The judge must obtain 50% plus one favorable vote of all the ballots cast to remain in office.

List of District Court chief Judges and Superior Court/Supreme Court justices

District Court Chief Judges

  • Frances Tydingco-Gatewood (2006-present)
  • Michael J. Bordallo (Magistrate, 2020-present)

Former District Court Judges

  • John S. Unpingco (1992-2004)
  • Cristobal C. Duenas (1969-1991)
  • Eugene R. Gilmartin (1959-1961)
  • Paul D. Shriver (1951-1959; 1961-1969)

Supreme Court

Chief Justice

  • F. Philip Carbullido (2020-present)

Associate Justices

  • Katherine A. Maraman (2008-present)
  • Robert J. Torres, Jr. (2004-present)

Former Chief Justices

  • Peter C. Siguenza, Jr. (2001-2003; 1996-1999)
  • Benjamin J. F. Cruz (1999-2001)
  • F. Philip Carbullido (2003-2008; 2011-2014)
  • Robert J. Torres, Jr. (2008-2011; 2014-2017)
  • Katherine A. Maraman (2017-2020)
  • Joaquin C. Perez (1974-1976, first Supreme Court of Guam)

Former Associate Justices

  • Benjamin J. F. Cruz (1997-1999)
  • Peter C. Siguenza, Jr. (1999-2001)
  • Janet H. Weeks (1996-1999)
  • Frances Tydingco-Gatewood (2002-2006)
  • Monessa G. Lujan (1996-1997)

Superior Court

Presiding Judge

  • Alberto C. Lamorena III (1988-present)

Former Presiding Judges

  • Joaquin C. Perez (07/1974-10/1974)
  • Paul J. Abbate, Jr. (1974-1988)

Judges- Current

  • Arthur R. Barcinas (2005-present)
  • Vernon P. Perez (2009-present)
  • Maria Teresa B. Cenzon (2012-present)
  • Elyze M. Iriarte (2016-present)
  • Dana A. Gutierrez (2020-present)
  • Alberto E. Tolentino (2021-present)

Judicial Officers of the Superior Court

  • Benjamin C. Sison, Jr. (Magistrate Judge)
  • Jonathan R. Quan (Magistrate Judge)
  • Linda L. Ingles (Family Court Referee)
  • B. Ann Keith (Administrative Hearings Officer)
  • Maria G. Fitzpatric (Small Claims and Traffic Court Referee)


  • Benjamin JF Cruz (1984-1997)
  • Peter C. Siguenza, Jr. (1984-1996)
  • Frances Tydingco-Gatewood (1994-2002)
  • Katherine A. Maraman (1994-2008)
  • Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson (1998-2012)
  • Joaquin C. Perez (Island Court 1960-1969)
  • Paul J. Abbate, Jr. (1969-1988)
  • Joaquin VE Manibusan, Sr. (1974-1995)
  • Joaquin VE Manibusan, Jr. (1995-2004)
  • Vicente C. Reyes (1974-1975)
  • Richard Benson (1974-1981)
  • Janet H. Weeks (1975-1996)
  • John Raker (1975-1984)
  • Ramon V. Diaz (1980-1994)
  • Anita Sukola (2002-2021)
  • Steven S. Unpingco (1997-2011)
  • Michael J. Bordallo (1998-2020)
  • Alberto C. Lamorena III (1988-present)
  • James L. Canto II (2011-2016)

By Dominica Tolentino

For further reading

Amendment to the Organic Act of Guam to Provide for the Reorganization of the Judicial System of Guam, and for Other Purposes. H.R. 4580. 94th Congress, 1975.

Brunal-Perry, Omaira. “Nineteenth-Century Spanish Administrative Development in the Province of Guam.” In Guam History: Perspectives. Volume One. Edited by Lee D. Carter, William L. Wuerch, and Rosa Roberto Carter. Mangilao: Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 1997.

Carano, Paul, and Pedro C. Sanchez. A Complete History of Guam. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle, Co., 1964.

Cox, Leonard M., Edward J. Dorn, Kenneth C. McIntosh, and Merlyn G. Cook. The Island of Guam. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917.

District Court of Guam. “About the Court.”

Farrell, Don A. History of the Mariana Islands to Partition. Saipan: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System, 2011.

Higuchi, Wakako. The Japanese Administration of Guam, 1941-1944: A Study of Occupation and Integration Policies, with Japanese Oral Histories. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013.

Judiciary of Guam. 2020 Judiciary of Guam Annual Report. Hagåtña: GJ, 2022.

–––. “Judiciary History.” Last modified 28 February 2022.

Madrid, Carlos. Beyond Distances: Governance, Politics and Deportation in the Mariana Islands from 1870 to 1877. Saipan: Northern Mariana Islands Council for Humanities, 2006.

Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995.

Saussotte, Marguerite. “US Naval Era: Judges and Island Attorneys.” In Guampedia, last modified 8 March 2022.