Frances 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 31 years, Dr. Robert Gatewood, and her three sons, Daniel, Michael and Stephen. Dr. Robert Gatewood is a practicing periodontist on island. She also has received much support and encouragement from her parents, the late Daniel James Castro Tydingco (familian “Eron”) and Francesca S. Tydingco, her in-laws, the late Arthur and Ruth Gatewood of New Mexico, and her siblings and in-laws: Attorney Phil Tydingco and wife, Karen; Juliana Borja and husband, Michael; and Daniel Tydingco and wife, Lory.

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, Presiding Judge of the Jackson County Circuit Courts in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1983 to 1984.

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

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 Prosecuting Attorney. The 22nd Guam Legislature unanimously confirmed her to the Superior Court. Her appointment and confirmation is a source of much pride for our island community; she is a daughter of Guam and its first Chamorro woman judge. Judge Gatewood has authored hundreds of decisions and orders as a trial judge. She has 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, the most complex civil litigation trial in the Pacific Rim. This particular trial took place in one of the most technologically advanced courtrooms in the world.

In addition to nearly eight years of trial experience in the Superior Court of Guam, Frances also has federal judicial trial experience. For twelve years, she served as a designated federal judge for the District Court of Guam. The Honorable Mary M. Schroeder, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed Frances to this position.

On September 1, 2001, then-Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez appointed Frances to an Associate Guam Supreme Court Justice position. In tapping her to serve on the island’s high court, Governor Gutierrez recognized Judge Tydingco-Gatewood’s dedication to jurisprudence 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 26th Guam Legislature unanimously confirmed her to the Supreme Court. She was also appointed by the Honorable Chief Justice of the CNMI, Miguel Demapan to serve as a designated Associate Justice for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Frances served as an associate justice with fellow Justice Robert J. Torres under the leadership of then Chief Justice of Guam, the Honorable F. Philip Carbullido, from February 8, 2002 to October 27, 2006.

Frances was appointed by Chief Justice Carbullido to be the chairperson of the following 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 Legal Counsel Shannon J. Taitano and Senator Joanne Brown of the Guam Legislature. As the co-chairperson for the Pacific Judicial Council Education Committee, she furthered the committee’s goal of improving the education of all justices, judges and courts staff for Guam, the CNMI, Palau, American Samoa, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, including Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap.

In July 2005, the Honorable Felix P. Camacho, then-Governor of Guam, recommended Frances to the President of the United States, the Honorable George W. Bush, for nomination as the Chief Judge for the Federal District Court of Guam. On April 25, 2006, President Bush officially nominated her to be Guam’s District Court Chief Judge. On July 11, 2006, a hearing was held before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, during which Congressional Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo testified and recommended her confirmation. On August 4, 2006, Frances was confirmed as the Chief Judge of the United States District Court of Guam. On October 30, 2006, she was sworn in as the Chief Judge of the United States District Court of Guam – Guam’s First Chamorro Woman Chief Judge. She is also the Chief Bankruptcy Judge of the United States District Court of Guam.

Frances was recently selected 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 is delegated to chair and plan the committee meetings and the annual Conference of Chief District Judges of the Ninth Circuit. She is also a member of three federal committees–the Conference of United States Chief District Judges, the Conference of Chief Bankruptcy Judges, and the Ninth Circuit’s Pacific Islands Committee.

Frances has lectured in Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, Guam, 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, therapeutic re-entry drug courts, and the “One Judge One Family” concept.

Last updated October 15, 2012