For the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the Traditional Rights Court, there is a majority of permanent judges who are women on the three-member panel.
On Friday, High Court Chief Justice Carl Ingram swore in Chief Judge Grace Leban and new Associate Judge Claire Loeak. Leban is a continuing judge who took over as chief judge following the death of long-time Chief Judge Walter Elbon late last year. Loeak was recently appointed by Cabinet and confirmed for the position by Nitijela. She has been an Assistant Attorney General and registrar of corporations for the RMI for many years.
Loeak joins Leban and long-time Associate Judge Nixon David. In addition to the three permanent members, the TRC has several part-time judges who can be called on to handle cases when one of the permanent judges has conflict with a case referred to the TRC.
David is the irooj representative, Claire represents alap, and Leban represents rijerbal.
During remarks following the wearing in, the Chief Justice took time to recognize outgoing Judicial Service Commission member Maria Fowler. She is stepping down after 20 years with the JSC. The JSC recommends to Cabinet judges to be hired for all levels of the RMI judiciary. Replacing her on the JSC is her daughter, Jennifer Hawley. The other members of the JSC are Chief Justice Ingram and Attorney General Richard Hickson.