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NMI’s first district court judge passes away

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(MV) — Former District Court for the NMI Judge Alfred Laureta passed away peacefully at his home on Kauai, Hawaii late in the evening of Nov. 16, 2020.  He was 96.

Alfred Laureta, then-Hawaii Department of Labor director, in a photo taken in 1963.

 Hawaii State Archives photo

 

“His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were at his bedside. He lived a very full and rewarding life,” San Francisco appellate attorney David Collins told Variety in an email. Collins clerked for Judge Laureta in the CNMI from 1981 to 1983.

According to The Garden Islands, a newspaper in Kauai, Hawaii, Laureta was born on May 21, 1924 “at Banana Camp in Ewa, Oahu, the only son of Filipino immigrants who came to Hawaii so his father could work as a laborer on the plantation. His parents’ relative lack of formal education did not stop Laureta from excelling scholastically, and from an early age those around him took notice.”

After finishing high school he “worked his way through college at the University of Hawaii at Mano, paying for tuition with a summer job in a pineapple cannery.” He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in education in 1947 and obtained his law degree from Fordham University in New York in 1953.

Laureta served as director of Hawaii’s Department of Labor for four years before he was appointed in 1967 as first circuit court judge, the first Filipino-American judge in history.

In June 1978, Laureta was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first federal judge of Filipino ancestry in U.S. history. He was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the first judge of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth whose government was inaugurated in Jan. 1978.

At the time, “ ‘There’s no federal court building in Saipan,’ said a May 1978 Honolulu Advertiser article about Laureta’s appointment. ‘Court will initially be held in the lounge of the Saipan Continental Hotel, at one time a small gambling casino when slot machines were legal on the islands.’ ”

Laureta served as federal judge in the CNMI from 1978 to 1988 and was succeeded by Judge Alex Munson who served until 2010. The current federal judge is Ramona V. Manglona whose 10-year term will expire in July 2021 unless she is re-appointed by the U.S. president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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