Monday, December 29, 2008

Some Scheduling Matters

Just fyi:

The Marianas Office will be closed for the holidays in the afternoon of December 31, 2008, and on Thursday, January 1, and Friday, January 2, 2009.

We are typically open to the public Monday through Fridays as follows:

M-R-8 AM to noon; 1 PM to 5 PM
F-1 PM to 5 PM. (Friday mornings we have staff meeting and are closed during that time; we are sometimes open for a portion of Friday morning, but it depends on how long our meetings last.)

DOMESTIC cases: We will be accepting applications in family cases Monday through Thursday, January 26-29, 2009. If you have a case that relates to divorce, child custody, child support, guardianship, adoption or other family matter and you want our help, this is the time to apply for assistance.

If you are served summons and complaint or have some other time-sensitive matter, you may, of course, apply for our help at any time.

Happy holidays to all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Day for Debtors' Rights

Today is a great day for judgment debtors in the CNMI.

The CNMI Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of PFC vs. Muna, 2008 MP 21, holding that the Superior Court must honor due process rights in civil contempt proceedings.

Specifically, the Superior Court must do the following in all future civil contempt hearings:
1. Advise the alleged contemnor that he has a right to be represented by counsel.
2. Advise the alleged contemnor that the Court will appoint counsel for him if he is too poor to afford counsel on his own.
3. Continue the matter to allow the non-indigent contemnor the opportunity to get counsel.

4. If a person brought into court on alleged contempt says s/he is too poor to afford counsel and s/he wants court-appointed counsel, the Superior Court is to undertake a quick examination of the contemnor's situation to determine if s/he is presumptively eligible for court-appointed counsel. If s/he is, then the Court appoints counsel before proceeding to the contempt matter.

5. Alternatively, the Superior Court can say before the contempt proceeding begins that it will NOT consider loss of liberty as a possible sanction in the matter. Then there is no court-appointed counsel, but there is also no jail sentence that can be imposed and then left hanging over the head of the judgment debtor as a means to compel payments.

Stay tuned for more information on this matter.

Decision is now available on-line at the Law Revision website: PFC vs. Muna