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District Court for the NMI staff honored for ‘extraordinary actions’

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts/Federal Judiciary) — Staff of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Clerk of Court’s Office, judicial chambers, and Probation and Pretrial Services were honored for overcoming the challenges of two violent storms in recent years.

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Probation staff from the  District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands are, from left, Juanette F. David-Atalig, probation officer assistant; Gregory F. Arriola, probation officer; and Fleuretta A. Inos, administrative assistant.
District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, first row, second from left, wrote a letter nominating the Northern Mariana Islands court staff for their resilience during two major storms.  Award recipients are, first row from left, Michelle C. Macaranas, financial administrator; Bertha T. Camacho, docket clerk/procurement specialist, Francine P. Atalig, courtroom deputy; Amanda C. Hayes, chambers judicial administrator to the chief judge; Aiko D. Erungel, case processing clerk, Heather L. Kennedy, clerk of court/magistrate judge; second row from left, Daniel Isaac P. Brown, administrative support clerk; Mario G. Mendoza, information systems manager; Bernard E. Paraiso, systems and network administrator; William J. Bezzant, chief deputy clerk; and Timothy V. Wesley, systems specialist/jury administrator. Not photographed are Walter M. Popen, architect/project manager, and Daria A. Campion, law clerk to the chief judge.  Contributed photos

“Their swift action avoided what would’ve been a disastrous mold infection,” following a 2015 typhoon, according to a nominating letter from Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona. “They endured two major typhoons, yet continued to operate the court with minimal disruption, under extraordinary emotional and physical stress.”

When Typhoon Soudelor struck the island of Saipan in August 2015, trees and power lines blocked many roads. Employees negotiated those barriers to get to the courthouse, where they quickly used vacuums and fans to begin drying out water damage.

With most of the island lacking electricity, court employees worked with the U.S. Marshals Service and local agencies to ensure a supply of diesel fuel for a generator. “This fueled generator not only allowed the court to reopen,” Judge Manglona wrote, “it was vital to reducing the humidity in the building to prevent dangerous and damaging mold growth.”

In October 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu struck Saipan with sustained wind speeds of more than 170 miles per hour. “The widespread devastation was shocking,” Judge Manglona wrote. “The massive storm turned roofs into rubble while frightened inhabitants hid in back rooms, closets and bathrooms.”

Whereas the courthouse reopened in 10 days in 2015, the staff needed only five days to reopen in 2018. By the second storm, employees were well-versed in emergency procedures. “This knowledge,” Judge Manglona wrote, “meant the federal court remained available during a crisis.”

Employees also assisted each other with home cleanup, and during the power outage of 2015, even set up a makeshift home laundry center at the courthouse.

“The employees of the District Court for the Northern Marianas exemplified Marianas Strong (the mantra of the island after Super Typhoon Yutu),” Judge Manglona wrote. “We are incredibly fortunate to work with these brave, compassionate, and steadfast employees.”