Benjamin Cruz

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The Honorable
Benjamin Cruz
CruzBJFphoto.jpg
Vice Speaker of the Guam Legislature
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 5, 2008
Preceded by Eddie Calvo
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam
In office
April 21, 1999 – August 31, 2001
Appointed by Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez
Preceded by Peter Charles Siguenza
Succeeded by Robert J. Torres, Jr.
Personal details
Born Benjamin J. Franquez Cruz
(1951-03-03) March 3, 1951 (age 63)
Guam
Political party Democratic Party of Guam
Alma mater Claremont Men's College
Santa Clara University School of Law
Website senatorbjcruz.com

Benjamin "BJ" J. F. Cruz (born March 3, 1951) is an American judge and politician from Guam.

Early life and education[edit]

Born on March 3, 1951 in Guam, he is the second child and only son of Juan Quenga Cruz ("Tanaguan") and Antonia Cruz Franquez. His father, who had just been elected Commissioner (Mayor) of Piti, was killed by Marcelo Biscoe in 1956 when Cruz was only five years old.

In 1960, while in Guam, Cruz’s mother married Vicente Cruz Guerrero ("Tico") and then they resettled the whole family in California in 1962. They returned to Guam intermittently, where Cruz attended grade school at St. Francis School in Yona.

He went to St. John Bosco High School in California until 1968. His undergraduate Bachelor degree in Political Science and Economics was obtained in 1972 from the Claremont Men's College, and his Juris Doctor in 1975 from the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Career[edit]

Upon graduation in 1975, Cruz returned to Guam to work as Consumer Counsel in the Attorney General’s Office.

Four months later, Governor of Guam Ricardo J. Bordallo, who had just begun his first term in office with Lieutenant Governor of Guam Rudolph G. Sablan, asked Cruz to serve as the Governor’s Legal Counsel, which he did for Bordallo’s first term through January 1979.

Between Bordallo’s two gubernatorial terms, Cruz established a private practice and served as Minority Legal Counsel to the 15th and 16th Guam Legislatures. In 1983, Governor Bordallo was elected to his second term as Governor of Guam with Lt. Governor Edward D. Reyes. Bordallo appointed Cruz to head the Washington, D.C. Liaison Office. There, he served as Liaison to the White House, the United States Congress, and the National Governors Association.

In 1984, Bordallo appointed Cruz to be a Judge of the Superior Court of Guam. At 33, Cruz would be one of the youngest attorneys ever appointed to be a Judge. His appointment was controversial, and several leaders of local Protestant churches testified against the confirmation, citing sexual preference as disqualifying Cruz from being a good judge. Despite these interventions, Cruz was confirmed by the legislature and began a 17-year career in the island judiciary.

Cruz spent the first nine of his seventeen years as a Superior Court Judge with the Family court, where he was an advocate for establishing and improving services for juvenile offenders and troubled youth. His reputation as a fair and firm judge with compassion is well regarded by the legal community and social service providers.[citation needed] As a trial court judge, Cruz presided over the controversial lawsuit filed regarding the implementation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act. He issued the landmark decision ordering the Act’s implementation.

In 1997, Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez appointed Cruz to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam. He served as Associate Justice until 1999, when his colleagues elected him Chief Justice. Cruz served as Chief Justice from April 21, 1999 until August 31, 2001, when he retired from the judiciary.

Prior to his appointment as Superior Court judge, Cruz held key positions in the Democratic Party of Guam. He served as Executive Director under Franklin J.A. Quitugua and was Guam National Committeeman in the Democratic National Committee. Cruz returned to politics after his retirement from the judiciary in 2002, to chair the successful campaign of Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo. Between 2003 and 2005, Cruz once again served as Democratic National Committeeman.

In 2003, Cruz was appointed by U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton to be one of five members of the Guam War Claims Review Commission, established by the Congress to report and make findings relative to compensation for the victims and survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam during World War II. The Federal Commission has issued a report to Congress recommending compensation. A bill is now pending in the Congress that, when passed, will finally compensate victims and survivors.

In 2004, Cruz was elected to the 28th Guam Legislature and was the highest democratic vote getter. In 2006, Cruz ran for Lt. Governor with Former Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez in the 2006 Democratic primary against former Delegate Robert Underwood and Senator Frank Aguon. The Underwood-Aguon ticket won the primary but lost in the general election to Republican Governor Felix Camacho and Lt. Governor Michael W. Cruz.

On January 7, 2008, Cruz was the victor in a special election to fill a vacancy in the 29th Guam Legislature left by the unexpected passing of former republican Speaker Antonio (Tony) R. Unpingco. The election of Cruz shifted the majority of the 15-seat At-large Legislature from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

On July 2008, Cruz worked to convince Navy Rear Admiral William French, Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and other U.S. Navy officials to ease restrictions on the access of local veterans to the island's only VA Clinic located in a gated Naval hospital facility.[1] [2]

In 2009, Cruz introduced Same-sex Civil Union Legislation on behalf of the Guam Youth Congress. The legislation has been publicly opposed by Arbishop Anthony S. Apuron, Archdiocese of Hagatna, Guam. In July 2009, Cruz revised the legislation to provide for Domestic Partnerships between any two people. This legislation has also been opposed by the Catholic Church on Guam. Apuron has called for fasting and prayer for the Guam Legislature to reject the legislation.

Other interests and achievements[edit]

Cruz served as Legal Counsel and incorporator for the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights (OPI-R) and the PARA-PADA Coalition that opposed the adoption of the Guam Constitution. He also was a co-founder of the Nuclear Free Micronesia Organization.

Cruz served as Secretary General, Vice President, and Treasurer of the Guam National Olympic Committee. Cruz was instrumental in organizing Guam’s petition for admission to the International Olympic Committee.

Cruz currently serves on the Board of Directors and a Past President of Sanctuary, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the island’s troubled youth and their families

Cruz is the current co-chairperson of the Manenggon Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization created to construct a permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of Guam’s World War II enemy occupation at the site of Manenggon Concentration Camp, on property deeded for such purpose by businessman Dwight Look. Cruz is also the Chairman of the Board of Pa’a Taotao Tano (PTT), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, promotion, and preservation of the Chamorro culture and has joined the governing boards of Pacific Islanders in Communication, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation Guam Chapter.

Cruz has also been involved with other organizations such as Beauty World Guam Ltd., The Guam Beautification Association, and the American Cancer Society, serving as President of the Guam Chapter in 1981.

Personal[edit]

Cruz's nomination to be a Judge in the Superior Court of Guam in 1984 was marked with protests from evangelical and Baptist church groups because he was gay. Cruz was later confirmed as a Judge and was assigned to lead the Family Court for nearly 10 years. Cruz revealed a longstanding homosexual relationship in a local magazine article published in Latte Magazine in 1995. Cruz eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam and was featured in an article in The Advocate about his homosexuality.[3]

References[edit]