In honor of National Women’s History Month, we are honoring some of the many talented women who work for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office through a series of interviews entitled: “The Women of CCPO”
Today, we recognize Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Manteiga.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Patricia: It’s a tremendous opportunity to talk about women’s rights and how far we’ve come. To think that it took the United States until June 4, 1919 for women to have a right to vote, that a college education for a female was considered a taboo, and that a working mom was something to be disparaged is shocking. So, although I’m proud of how far we’ve come and how grateful I am for the women who came before me paving the way, there is still much work to be done. These are equalities granted to us in the United States, but when I think of those rights being denied to so many overseas I can’t help but realize there is still much work to be done.
What woman did you admire growing up and why?
Patricia: It is trite to say Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but at the end of the day, why not? RBG did more for equality (across the board, for women, men, people of color, etc.) than any other justice I have ever learned from. To be frank though, the woman I admire the most is my mother. Colombian born, but the wife of a U.S. diplomat, she ensured that our life was one of respect, one of women’s equality, and one of justice. As the daughter of a U.S. diplomat I moved from one country to the other (at least six in my life) and she always adapted quickly, formed our community and pushed us to be the very best person we could be- not just as a student, but as a person too. My mother is an incredible woman of high intelligence, high morals and adaptability. My father may have been the diplomat, but my mother was the one having rousing political conversations at diplomatic functions.
Describe your role at the CCPO:
Patricia: Currently I am assigned to the Grand Jury unit, after having gone through the Juvenile unit and Trial Team. In Grand Jury I present in front of a grand jury panel and ensure that the files we present will move forward to trial team as complete as possible. I also ensure we meet all the necessary requirements so that we have a good faith basis to prosecute, with all the evidence necessary to prove our case. In the alternative, in Grand Jury we also dismiss cases where there is insufficient evidence. We look at the case as a whole and decide what should or should not be presented in front of the Grand Jury Panel.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Patricia: The most rewarding part of my job is to always recognize that, at the end of the day, I’m a seeker of justice. My job is not to put people in jail, not to convict people but to seek justice and ensure that we have sufficient evidence against a suspect to seek justice for the State of New Jersey. It is a job that makes me proud and humbles me.
What is your message to young girls interested in pursuing a career path like yours (or to young women in general)?
Patricia: My message to young women in general is not to ever underestimate your worth. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid. There is a disproportionate amount of male counsel in criminal defense (which is changing), but don’t ever let someone tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing. Seek justice and you will know what you are doing. Listen to those that have experience and learn from them all the while finding your own style for presenting and trying cases.