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Northern Mariana Islands

Strategic Plan Judicial Branch


Table of Contents 3 4 5 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

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Strategic Planning Leadership Committee Message from Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro Charting Our Success Since 2009 Taking Action in 2018-2022 Vision and Mission Statements Goal 1: Maintain Fair and Efficient Case Flow and Time Standards Goal 2: Ensure Access to Justice Goal 3: Develop and Support Specialty Courts Goal 4: Improve Technology and Court Data Systems Goal 5: Promote a Modern and Professional Workforce Goal 6: Increase Community Engagement Goal 7: Renovate Guma’ Hustisia, Rota Centron Hustisia, and Kotten Tinian Acknowledgments Notes


Strategic Planning Leadership Committee Associate Justice

Chief Justice

Associate Justice

John A. Manglona

Alexandro C. Castro

Perry B. Inos

Associate Judge

Presiding Judge

Associate Judge

Joseph N. Camacho

Roberto C. Naraja

Teresa K. Kim-Tenorio

Strategic Planning Support Acting Director of Courts

Sonia Camacho

Law Clerk

Benjamin Byers


Law Clerk

Olga Bykov

Law Clerk

Dayla Go

Law Clerk

Hyunjae Lee

Law Clerk

Hal Spott

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Message from the


ince its inception in 1978, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Judiciary has been evolving unceasingly. We have developed and matured into an autonomous judicial system striving to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice and maintaining the rule of law in the Commonwealth. Early landmark accomplishments include the completion of Guma’ Hustisia, Kotten Tinian, and Centron Hustisia Rota, and the establishment of the CNMI Supreme Court and Superior Court as constitutional entities. With these achievements, we solidified our Judiciary as an independent and coequal branch of the Commonwealth government. And we continue to grow and evolve.

With the rapid pace of development, we faced a myriad of challenges. Yet, with resilience and strategic planning, the Judiciary reformed. In 2007, the Judiciary held its first Strategic Planning conference. There, leaders envisioned the future of the Judiciary. Since then, the Judiciary consistently made progress on the strategic goals and priorities established at that conference and accomplished many, some of which are detailed on the following pages. Building on these objectives, upon my swearing in as Chief Justice of the CNMI Supreme Court, I envisioned strengthening the Judiciary by bridging the gaps between the islands of the Commonwealth. Specifically, I focused on utilizing modern technology, establishing Alternative Dispute Resolution within the judicial system, and improving legal representation for indigent parties. With the help of internal and external partners, we were able to accomplish these strategic objectives. In 2016, the Judiciary once again felt the need to re-evaluate our progress and develop a fresh roadmap to strategically improve our judicial system. Facilitated by the Judiciary staff, we held a two day strategic planning conference with approximately 120 participants, including many external stakeholders. This comprehensive and instructive

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conference consisted of surveys, fact-finding, and indepth discussions regarding the Judiciary’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Conference topics included access to justice, language access policies, decision time standards, bench-bar relations, community outreach, public trust and confidence, court leadership, problem solving courts, customer service, and court policies. The strategic planning conference was eye-opening, providing constructive suggestions to better our Judiciary. The document you hold charts the Judiciary’s future goals and strategic priorities. It will serve as a guidepost as we work to further improve our Judiciary. With clear objectives, we aspire to strengthen our practices to best serve the CNMI and its people over the next decade. Dangkulu na Si Yu’us Ma’ase,

Alexandro C. Castro Chief Justice



Our Success Since 2009

n 2009, the Judiciary released its first Strategic Plan. Contributors helped shape a plan to bring the Judiciary into the 21st century. Following the framework established at that meeting, the Judiciary’s achievements include: • Developing judicial independence by establishing the Judicial Council, unifying Supreme and Superior Court administrative functions, and increasing briefing sessions and collaborative projects with other governmental branches and agencies. • Improving timeliness of judicial processes by adopting Supreme Court time standards, establishing judge and justice-led committees to develop Standard Operating Procedures, and creating pathways to cross-training for staff with regular divisional training sessions, personal growth seminars, and annual openaccess professional development. • Ensuring accountability by improving procurement procedures and systems, adopting personnel regulations and a personnel ethics policy, and establishing a system for continual review of court rules and procedures.


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Charting Our

Since 2009


ince 2009 we have also grown as a Judiciary. This growth includes hiring new employees, developing critical policy initiatives including the Language Access Policy Procedure and Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures, and creating several new divisions, including the Drug Court and Marshal Service. We recognize this growth will only continue and the Judiciary will need to continue to evolve. This evolution must be structured to maximize our opportunity to excel. • Remaining aware of the needs of the public and enhancing transparency by issuing regular press releases and an annual report about court activity, establishing and building community outreach programs including Law Day, Mock Trial, Judges and Justices in the Classroom, Law and the Freshman Legislator, and Summer Pre-Law Program, and hosting student interns and externs from high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. • Continuing our pursuit of excellence by enhancing online accessibility, modernizing communication tools, and expanding the pro se center at Family Court.

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in 2018-2022


he following goals and strategies will assist our subcommittees in developing structured action plans. Subcommittees will meet at least quarterly, and we will conduct annual accountability assessments. These subcommittees are tasked with creating, implementing, and tracking action plans to achieve the stated goals by year four, when we will hold our next strategic planning conference. By year five, our subcommittees will come together to assess the need for further development, and set the agenda for our next five years of growth.


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A fast, fair, and just system of courts and services tailored to provide open access and maintain the equitable administration of law.

To ensure an independent judiciary that provides impartial, timely, responsive, and accountable judicial services focused on the continuous pursuit of judicial excellence.

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Goal No. 1 Fast and Fair Caseflow and Time Standards


fficiency in the judicial process is critical to obtaining justice, ensuring community trust, and protecting parties’ rights. The underlying requirement for judicial efficiency is consistent excellence in caseflow and time standards. Excellence in caseflow encompasses procedural fairness, respectful treatment of parties, impartial case processing, clear explanations of court proceedings, and a fair and timely resolution of pending matters. Time standards must be consistent across cases and proceedings as well as made readily available to parties and the community. Time standards should be reviewed regularly to ensure compliance with best practices and responsiveness to the needs of the Judiciary and the community. Internal processes should be streamlined to ensure consistency and timeliness across the Judiciary. With the advent of electronic filing and online technologies, there is an imminent opportunity to streamline case filings and enhance internal efficiencies. A timely move to new technologies requires internal and external education, which will result in enhanced efficiencies and smoother caseflow.

Fair and Timely Case Resolution Strategies 1.1

Develop consistent internal Standard Operating Procedures and Time Standards for each division of the Judiciary

1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5

Reduce case backlog Analyze calendar structure Revise procedural rules to improve caseflow management Improve differentiated case management and channeling of cases into optimal resolution paths

1.6 Develop methods to share and provide additional resources to court officers who support Judiciary operations

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Goal No. 2 Ensure Access to Justice


ccess to justice comes in many forms. Courts exist to provide justice, but there can be no justice without access to the necessary information, procedures, persons, and forums. A variety of barriers can prevent people from accessing justice, particularly in a diverse community such as ours: language, information, and education are just a few of the existing barriers. The Judiciary is committed to developing programs to assist people in overcoming these barriers. The Language Access Policy and Procedure (LAPP) provides critical translation services to litigants. Our community outreach programs educate our community about resources available at the court. Our specialty courts provide non-adversarial treatment plans to better serve at-risk populations. We will continue to ensure equal access to justice for all, regardless of the potential barriers a party may face.

Ensure All Parties have Equal Access to Justice Strategies 2.1 Integrate means of Alternative Dispute Resolution 2.2 Expand support programs and funding opportunities for indigent parties 2.3 Develop plain language forms 2.4 Create a comprehensive online forms database 2.5 Ensure our diverse community is provided translation and interpretation services 2.6 Continually assess public needs and concerns regarding the Judiciary


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Goal No. 3 Develop and Support Specialty Courts


ur specialty dockets provide non-adversarial treatment programs to better serve at-risk populations. Issues such as drug addiction may be addressed alternatively through treatment courts, rather than through traditional models. Our newly established Drug Court, for example, is already successfully working with many participants, building on successful models from other jurisdictions. A variety of other specialty dockets, including Juvenile, Veterans, and Mental Health courts, are also being developed. These specialty dockets better serve vulnerable members of our population and create long-term cost savings by reducing recidivism and lessening the strain on our prison system.

Addressing Pressing Needs through Non-Adversarial Models Strategies 3.1 Support Drug Court while also developing Juvenile, Veterans, Mental Health, and other specialty dockets

3.2 Increase community integration and community-based prevention initiatives 3.3 Create additional specialty courts to address specific areas of concern through non-adversarial treatment-based models

3.4 Seek long-term cost savings through diversion and treatment as opposed to incarceration and isolation

3.5 Work with community stakeholders to address areas of pressing concern

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Goal No. 4 Improve Technology and Court Data Systems


apid developments in technology have created both opportunities and challenges for court systems. We will work to improve our electronic filing system, digitize new and existing case files, and offer increased access to online legal research tools for attorneys, pro se litigants, and the general public. The Judiciary will also update courtrooms with next-generation technologies to allow for video conferencing capabilities, electronic displays, and distance court proceedings to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Internally, we will update telephone and internet systems to provide for high-speed and high-quality services. We will continue to improve our online offerings, update our online form database, and increase opportunities for community engagement.

Court Efficiency Through Advanced Technology Strategies 4.1 Institute an electronic payment system and expand electronic filing capabilities and online document access

4.2 Standardize courtroom technology and equipment 4.3 Modernize records management systems 4.4 Implement video and web conferencing in all three island courts to expand remote judging capability

4.5 Develop a two-year rolling Information Technology Plan 4.6 Upgrade telephonic and internet capabilities 4.7 Develop court communication plans including use of new technologies


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Goal No. 5 Modern and Professional Workforce


he Judiciary houses 106 full time positions. Maintaining a strong judiciary workforce is essential to maintaining a strong judiciary. Employees must adhere to the highest standards of integrity, honor, and fairness. All parties who come to the court, whether litigants, attorneys, witnesses, family members, or members of the public, deserve the highest level of customer service. To create an atmosphere of excellence, the Judiciary must provide its employees with opportunities for growth, including training, professional development, and promotion. The Judiciary is only as strong as its workforce.

A Professional Workforce Strategies 5.1 Maintain adequate personnel levels and streamline the hiring process 5.2 Develop Organizational and Staff Models, revise Court Administrative Rules, and implement Standard Operating Procedures

5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7

Institute Staff Training and Development Programs and Evaluations Standardize employee evaluations and utilize a merit and recognition-based system Develop an independent Judiciary salary scale Provide opportunities for mentoring and job rotation Promote health and wellness initiatives

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Goal No. 6 Community Engagement


ommunity engagement must occur both in the courthouses and in the community. Internally, a high level of customer service, as well as easy access to forms, payment systems, and litigation tools, will foster a sense of trust and competence. Externally, programs such as Judges and Justices in the Classroom, Mock Trial, Summer Pre-Law Program, and other forms of civic and law-related education will broaden connection bands and increase understanding between the public and the Judiciary. Programs like Law and the Freshman Legislator, CLEs, and Law and the Community Lecture Series bring in professional connections and enhance the relationship between the Judiciary and other public and private agencies and organizations. Technology updates will permit individuals to have enhanced access to legal research and services. The end goal of community engagement is to make every individual feel comfortable and well-served by the Judiciary.

Connection with the Community Strategies 6.1 Enhance collaboration with the NMI Bar Association, other branches of government, and agencies and service providers

6.2 Implement new approaches to improve jury efficiency 6.3 Conduct civic education to promote respect and understanding for community participation in the judicial process

6.4 Build on the success of community engagement programs 6.5 Increase direct-to-public access to information about the Judiciary 6.6 Bridge the gaps between the islands in the delivery of judicial services


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Goal No. 7 Renovate Saipan’s Guma’ Hustisia, Centron Hustisia Rota, and Kotten Tinian


eginning in 2018, the Judiciary will undertake a bold renovation strategy to build the judiciary of the future. A multi-million dollar project, the renovation and rehabilitation will create a state-of-the-art judiciary with media enabled courtrooms, resources for the public, and safe and sustainable spaces. Originally opened in 1996, the Guma’ Hustisia is in desperate need of revitalization. Not only will this project create a lasting facility for years to come, but it will also improve the courthouses on Tinian and Rota and provide backup services to allow the Judiciary to continue operations in emergency situations. The new buildings will be energy efficient, provide educational and public spaces, and upgrade system-wide technologies, including inter-island audio-visual communication capabilities.

A Robust Judiciary Strategies 7.1

Secure funding for expansion and renovation of Guma’ Hustisia, Centron Hustisia Rota, and Kotten Tinian

7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6

Renovate the Capitol Hill Continuity of Operations Program Building Create the Jury Center and Specialty Court Center Open the Internet Law Library Café Relocate the Office of Adult Probation Reevaluate existing office layouts

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ithout significant and material contributions by members of the Judiciary and external partners and supporters, our strategic plan would not be as complete, nor would our future be as bright. In particular, we would like to recognize: • All of the attendees and contributors to our November 2016 Strategic Planning Conference, including Governor Ralph DLG Torres, Lieutenant Governor Victor B. Hocog, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios, Speaker Ralph S. Demapan, Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez, Attorney General Edward Manibusan and Deputy Attorney General Lillian A. Tenorio, Board of Education Chairman Herman T. Guerrero, Office of Management and Budget Special Assistant Virginia C. Villagomez, and representatives from the Northern Marianas Bar Association, Micronesian Legal Services Corporation, Northern Marianas College, Public School System, Chamber of Commerce, Department of Public Lands, Division of Youth Services, Ayuda Network, Commonwealth Health Corporation, Community Guidance Center, and the Judiciary Historical Society; • The members of our strategic planning subcommittees tasked with developing action plans to achieve these goals; • The team members who assisted in organizing and coordinating the 2016 Strategic Planning Conference; • The team members who assisted in completing this Strategic Planning Summary Booklet; • The entire Judiciary staff; and • All of the members of the NMI community who have made and will make the Judiciary a strong, independent, and efficient branch of government.

Si Yu’us Ma’ase


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House of Justice, Guma’ Hustisia, Iimwaal Aweewe P.O. Box 502165 Saipan, MP 96950-0307 (670) 236-9800

Judicial Strategic Plan 2018-2022  
Judicial Strategic Plan 2018-2022