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Hon. Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief Judge

Chief Judge (Guam, 2006-present)

In July 2005, the Honorable Felix P. Camacho (R), then-Governor of Guam, recommended Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood to the President of the United States, the Honorable George W. Bush, for nomination as the Chief Judge of Guam’s federal court, the District Court of Guam.  On April 25, 2006, President Bush officially nominated Tydingco-Gatewood to this position. On July 11, 2006, a hearing was held before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, during which Congressional Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D) testified and recommended her confirmation.  On August 4, 2006, Tydingco-Gatewood was confirmed as the Chief Judge of the District Court of Guam.  On October 30, 2006, she was sworn in as the Chief Judge of the District Court of Guam, becoming Guam and the nation’s first Chamorro woman judge.  Frances also sits as the Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the District Court of Guam. She is only one of two judges out of 94 chief judges in the nation who must also sit as Chief Bankruptcy Judge.

After Frances was again fully vetted in 2016 to the position of Chief Judge to Guam’s federal district court, Guam Congressional Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D) recommended her name to President Obama. Her vetting included an American Bar Association investigation. Frances received a unanimous “WELL QUALIFIED” rating from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.  In May of 2016, the Honorable Barack Obama officially renominated Frances for a second term to be the Chief Judge of Guam’s Federal District Court. She was not granted a hearing by the Judiciary Committee at that time (along with another fully vetted 50 judicial nominees). 

Associate Justice (Guam, 2002-2006)

On September 1, 2001, then-Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez appointed Judge Tydingco-Gatewood to the Supreme Court of Guam as an Associate Justice.  In tapping her to serve on the island's highest court, Governor Gutierrez recognized Judge Tydingco-Gatewood's dedication to jurisprudence, both as a litigator and jurist. He echoed the overwhelming support she received from her peers in the legal community and noted those attributes, including her civic and community contributions, as the key factors in appointing her to the Supreme Court bench.  The twenty-sixth Guam Legislature unanimously confirmed her appointment to Guam’s highest court. Justice Tydingco-Gatewood served under the leadership of then-Chief Justice of Guam, the Honorable F. Philip Carbullido, from February 8, 2002 to October 27, 2006. During her tenure at the Supreme Court of Guam, Justice Tydingco-Gatewood was also appointed by then-Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the Honorable Miguel Demapan, to serve as a designated Associate Justice for the CNMI.

Trial Judge (Guam, 1994-2002)

In 1994, Frances was appointed to a trial judge position in the Superior Court of Guam by then- Governor Joseph F. Ada, who recognized her fairness and tireless dedication in seeking justice as Guam's Chief Prosecutor. The twenty-second Guam Legislature unanimously confirmed her to the Superior Court of Guam.  Her appointment and confirmation was a source of much pride for our island community; she is a daughter of Guam and Guam’s first Chamorro woman judge.  Judge Tydingco-Gatewood authored hundreds of decisions and orders as a trial judge.  She presided over numerous cases, including high-profile criminal cases, multi-party complex civil litigation cases, family court, juvenile court, traffic court, and probate matters.  She presided over the Royal Palm Resort lawsuit, one of the most complex civil litigation trials in the Pacific Rim.  That particular trial took place in one of the most technologically advanced courtrooms in the world at the time.  In addition to nearly eight years of trial experience in the Superior Court of Guam, Judge Tydingco-Gatewood served as a designated federal judge for the District Court of Guam.  The Honorable Mary M. Schroeder, then-Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed Judge Tydingco-Gatewood to that position.

Prosecutor (Guam and Missouri, 1984-1994)

From 1984 to 1988, Frances became the first Chamorro Pohnpeian woman Assistant Attorney General in the Prosecution Division on Guam.  During this time period, she earned a reputation for being a tough yet fair prosecutor. She prosecuted many major felonies such as murder, robbery, rape and drug cases.  She was an Assistant Prosecutor with the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office in Missouri from 1988 to 1990. During this time, Frances prosecuted major felony cases, including homicides and drugs, and served as the Trial Team Leader for the Sex Crimes Unit, while supervising several attorneys and staff members. In 1990, Frances returned home to become Guam's first Chamorro Pohnpeian woman Chief Prosecutor and served in that capacity until 1994. She supervised many attorneys and staff of the Prosecution Division while simultaneously handling a substantial felony caseload.  She worked as a designated Federal Prosecutor for the United States Attorney’s Offices in Guam from 1985 to 1988 and 1990 to 1994 and in Kansas City, Missouri from 1989 to 1990.

Law Clerk (Missouri, 1983-1984)

Frances realized her goal of becoming a lawyer at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, and her first legal foray was as the law clerk for the Honorable Forest W. Hanna, then- Presiding Judge of the Jackson County Circuit Courts in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1983 to 1984.

Education and Family (Guam, Wisconsin and Missouri)

Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood is of Chamorro and Pohnpeian descent and her roots and ties to Guam run deep and strong.  After graduating in 1976 from George Washington Senior High School in Mangilao, Guam, Frances obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1980 at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Guam's Professional Technical Scholarship.  In 1983, Frances obtained her Juris Doctorate law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.  Although receiving a law degree proved to be a personal milestone for Frances, giving birth to her eldest son, Daniel, while in law school remains   unforgettable not only for the joy of having him, but also for strengthening her belief in family values and support as she struggled to balance the roles of being a wife, law student and mother. 

The most significant people and source of support for Frances' legal career have been   her husband of 39 years, Dr. Robert Gatewood, her three sons, Daniel (married to Kristie),  Michael (married to Nia Deen Lim) and Stephen.  Dr. Gatewood is a practicing periodontist on Guam.  She also has received much support and encouragement from her parents, the late Daniel James Castro Tydingco (familian “Eron” and “Fungo”) and Francesca S. Tydingco, her in-laws, the late Arthur and Ruth Gatewood of New Mexico, and her siblings and in-laws:   Phillip Tydingco and wife, Karen; Juliana Borja and husband Michael; and Daniel Tydingco and wife, Lory.

Pacific Judicial Council President, Chief of the Chief District Judges, Federal Committee member (2006-present)

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood is currently the Acting President of the Pacific Judicial Council and was elected previously as the first woman President of the Pacific Judicial Council.  She has also served as co-chairperson for the Pacific Judicial Council Education Committee.  In her officer capacities, she has and continues to work tirelessly to further the committee's goal of improving the education of all justices, judges and court staff for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia, which include Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap. She has previously been elected amongst her Pacific island judges to serve as Treasurer and Vice President. She is also a member of the Pacific Judicial Council Education Committee.

In 2012, Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood was selected in a rotation to be the Chief of the Chief District Judges of the Ninth Circuit for a one-year term.  As the “Chief of the Chiefs,” she was delegated to chair and plan the committee meetings and the annual Conference of Chief District Judges of the Ninth Circuit. There are a total of 16 Chief District Judges serving in Alaska, Arizona, California, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood is also a member of the following three federal conferences/committees:  the Conference of United States Chief District Judges, the Conference of Chief Bankruptcy Judges, and the Ninth Circuit’s Pacific Islands Committee.  

Guam Supreme Court Judiciary Committee Chairperson

During her tenure as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam, Justice Tydingco-Gatewood was appointed by then-Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido to be the chairperson of seven Supreme Court committees: Proposed Criminal Jury Instructions, Criminal Indigent Defense, Pro Se Litigation, Crime Victim and Witness Protection, Board of Law Examiners Drafting and Grading, Alternative Dispute Resolution-Mediation for Contested Child Custody Cases and Judicial, Attorney, and Community Education.  She also served as co-chairperson on the three-branch Family Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force with the Governor's then-Legal Counsel, Shannon J. Taitano, and then-Senator Joanne Brown of the Guam Legislature.

Speaking Engagements

Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood has lectured in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Palau, the Solomon Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, on topics such as complex civil litigation, family violence, sexual assault, certification of a juvenile to adult status in a murder case, human trafficking, therapeutic re-entry drug courts, the “One Judge, One Family” concept, alternative dispute resolution in the local and federal courts of Guam, intellectual property rights enforcement, bankruptcy court, and child pornography.

Membership in Corporate or Nonprofit Boards

Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood served as a member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Guam Junior Golf Academy, the Father Duenas Memorial Catholic High School Parent Advisory Board, the St. Francis Catholic Parish’s Eskuelan Palé Program, and the Guam Girl Scouts, Inc. Nominating Board Committee.