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NMI judiciary complains of ‘budgetary strangulation’

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IN light of the drastic reduction in CNMI government revenue, the judiciary has submitted an amended fiscal year 2021 budget request amounting to $5.17 million, which is about $6.4 million less than its original budget request of $11.57 million.

“The amount we seek…is far from optimal to efficiently carry out our constitutional mandates and does not capture the actual needs of the courts,” Chief Justice Alexandro Castro and Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja said in their letter to Senate President Victor B. Hocog and Speaker Blas Jonathan T.  Attao.

Castro and Naraja said the budget cut will mean reducing the full-time employee level of the judiciary from 98 to 74.

They said funding constraints will also “inevitably lead to delays, backlogs and curtailment of judicial services” provided by the Drug Court, the Office of Adult Probation and the Marshal Services Division.

“With such a budgetary strangulation, not only are our services compromised, but we also face a tipping point of a shutdown,” Castro and Naraja said.

Nonetheless, they said, they are “respectfully” asking the Senate and the House to approve the amended judiciary budget “to keep the doors of justice open to our people on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.”

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