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Peter Charles Siguenza, Jr. (1951 – 2020) was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam established in 1996 by the Organic Act of Guam.  Prior to his appointment as the first Chief Justice for Kotten Mas Takhelo Guåhan, Siguenza served for 12 years as a trial judge in the Superior Court of Guam.

Early life and education

Born on Guam in 1951 to US Marine Corps Captain Peter C. Siguenza, Sr. and Barbara Louise Bordallo, Siguenza graduated in 1969 from Father Duenas Memorial School before earning his BA in Government from California State University in 1976. While at Cal State, he was a member of Phi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society. In 1980, Siguenza was awarded a law degree from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California, where he also served as President of the Asian Law Student Association from 1977-78.

Legal career

He began his legal career as an attorney with Guam Legal Services and was then hired by Klemm, Blair & Barusch. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Guam in 1984.

Siguenza was also appointed as a Designated Judge in the District Court of Guam, in addition to Designated Justice in the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia. He was a judge at Superior Court of Guam from 18 April 1984 to 20 April 1996, an associate justice from 21 April 1999 to 31 August 2001 and finally served as Chief Justice from 1 September 2001 to 23 January 2003.

Siguenza served during some tumultuous times in Guam’s court history – with the challenges of re-establishing the Supreme Court of Guam and forging a Unified Judiciary. He dedicated the latter part of his career to ensuring the unification of the Superior and Supreme Courts, establishing the Judiciary in the framework of the Organic Act, and reorganizing the Judiciary as the third co-equal and independent branch of the Government of Guam. Although he retired before the unification in 2004, the Unified Judiciary Guam today is a credit to his efforts.

Community involvement

He was active in numerous bar, community and civic organizations for most of his life, including chairing of the Supreme Court of Guam Rules Commission in 1993 and chairing of the Father Duenas Memorial School Board of Trustees in 1991. Siguenza was a member of the California Bar, the Guam Bar and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Bar.

A self-described “amateur bluesman,” Siguenza taught guitar at the former Guam Academy of Music and Arts in Hagåtña in the early 1980s. From 1987-89, he was enlisted as a studio musician for the group “Chamorro” to make “Ningai’an Pumara,” the first locally produced contemporary music compact disc containing a collection of original CHamoru songs.

After his retirement from the Court, Siguenza often played with various musicians at clubs. Many will remember him wailing the blues on his harmonica with various bands.

He also loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He shipped his Harley-Davidson “Fatboy” to the mainland after he retired and rode solo across the country from coast to coast and border to border. He covered 31 states and 15,000 miles in two and half months.

He was also a certified technical diver and explored local wrecks at depths beyond the limits of recreational diving. This required focus, awareness, and the ability to stay calm and think clearly under water. He shared his love of the ocean with many as a dive instructor.

Siguenza also earned a black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do.

After retiring, he was an adjunct professor imparting his criminal law knowledge to his many students at the University of Guam.

Family

Siguenza married his late wife, Joleen Taitano Rios Siguenza, in 1969. They had a daughter, Dawn Renee Siguenza Blas, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild as of 2020. He married Kathy Fokas Siguenza on 17 November 2017.

Siguenza died on 30 March 2020. He was 68.

Hustisia Award

A month after his passing Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido announced Siguneza had been selected as this year’s recipient of the Hustisia Award. The award was presented in conjunction with Guam’s Law Week celebration 30 April. The posthumous award recognized Siguenza as a pioneer in Guam’s justice system and his remarkable career devoted to serving the public and improving the administration of justice.

The Hustisia Award recognizes a person or an organization that has contributed to improving the administration of justice and good government. The selection committee considers whether a nominee has:

  • Fostered building public support for the judiciary
  • Promoted respect for the law and understanding of the judicial system
  • Encouraged civic responsibility and service
  • Volunteered time and talents to the court in serving the people of Guam.

“I came to know this about him: He was undaunted by public criticism in the face of doing what he believed was correct under the law; he never bowed to partisan interests, and applied the law with an even hand; he remained a vigorous advocate for equal partnership with the other branches of government. And amid all these grand and admirable qualities, let us never forget his unrivaled sense of humor, his musical talent, his love for the ocean and for his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and his refusal to conform to anything other than who he was. He will be missed tremendously.”

Chief Justice Phillip Carbullido

By Shannon J. Murphy

For further reading

Honorable Peter Charles Siguenza, Jr. Judiciary of Guam website, Accessed 11 June 2020

Hustisia Award, Guam Bar Association, Accessed 11 June 2020

Licanto, Nestor. An Unconventional Justice: The Honorable Peter Charles Siguenza Jr. served on the Guam Bench for almost 20 years, The Guamanian Magazine, March – April 2016

Weiss, Jasmine Stole. Guam mourns former Chief Justice Peter Siguenza, Jr. Pacific Daily News, 31 March 2020.