Palau’s revered former Chief Justice Arthur Ngirakelsong passed away on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, two and half years after he resigned from his post as the Chief Justice of the Palau Supreme Court.

Remembered for his strong sense of justice and integrity, Chief Justice Ngirakelsong, left large shoes for Palau’s Judiciary to fill.

“I am devastated to learn of the passing of the late Chief Justice Arthur Ngirakelsong this evening,” said President Surangel Whipps Jr. in his public statement on the passing of the former Chief Justice.

“The Judiciary has lost a legend – a visionary leader and trailblazer who stands as the longest presiding Chief Justice in our history, during which he retained competent jurists to oversee the delivery of justice to the people of Palau.  He leaves behind a legacy of judicial standards that all present and future judges will emulate, “ expressed President Whipps.

Mrs. Sandra Pierantozzi and her husband Marcello Pierantozzi, close friends of CJ Ngirakelsong for many years, said they were “devastated when they were told he had passed away.” 

“He was one of Palau’s giants,” expressed Sandra Pierantozzi in an emotional interview last night.  Mrs. Pierantozzi said that their friendship was “free of any interest” and was one where CJ Ngirakelsong was free to be himself.  “He would chat and laugh with Marcello, just talking about mundane stuff.”

“He really made the judiciary what it is today.  He was strict but fair, ensuring the rules were followed,” added Sandra.

Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau-Senior, an attorney and a former judge, remembered her first experience as a practicing attorney in Palau.  She said it was the first time three young Palau female attorneys had returned home to practice law.  She recounted that each time they entered his courtroom, he threw all kinds of questions at them, testing them.  “We called it a “trial by fire” experience with Chief Justice Ngirakelsong.  He wanted the best out of us; he wanted us to be able to perform competently, to be the best advocate for our clients,” said Vice President Senior.

“He has a standard of excellence that I think comes from his own sense of integrity,” added Uduch of her impression of the last Chief Justice Ngirakelsong.

Late Chief Justice Ngirakelsong became the second person appointed Chief Justice of Palau’s Supreme Court after Chief Justice Mamoru Nakamura passed away in 1992.  Ngirakelsong served as Chief Justice for 28 years and resigned from his position as Chief Justice on June 1, 2020, after he suffered a stroke.  Palau justices are appointed for life and would only leave their post through death, resignation, or removal for specific causes.

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