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Chief prosecutor says judge ‘making up rules’

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CHIEF prosecutor John Bradley is accusing Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho of violating the CNMI Constitution by usurping the local Supreme Court chief justice’s authority to propose rule changes.

“A trial judge doesn’t have the authority to invent any rule that suits his personal wishes,” Bradley added.

“We are preparing an appeal,” he said, referring to the recent decision by Judge Camacho to grant the request of a defendant in a sexual abuse of a minor case to review all tangible materials used by law enforcement officers to establish probable cause.

“His actions have delayed justice for the victim of a sexual assault and are contrary to the approach taken by the four other Superior Court judges,” the chief prosecutor said of Judge Camacho.

“It’s time to ask the [NMI] Supreme Court to declare that he has committed a serious error,” he added.

Bradley said, under the CNMI Constitution, only the “chief justice of the Commonwealth may propose rules governing civil and criminal procedure, judicial ethics, admission to and governance of the bar of the Commonwealth, and other matters of judicial administration.” Moreover, a “proposed rule shall be submitted to the Legislature and shall become effective 60 days after submission unless disapproved by a majority of the members of either house of the Legislature.”

Judge Camacho, in his order on Sept. 28, 2020, found that defendant Rudolph Rudolph has the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses at a preliminary examination hearing “to weed out groundless claims.”

Judge Camacho stated that the defendant is “entitled to the tangible materials in possession of the Commonwealth that relate to the government’s determination of probable cause so that the defendant can fully and properly cross-examine the government’s witness.”

Rudolph, a Federated States of Micronesia national was charged on Aug. 5, 2020 with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and four counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree.

Bradley said in a preliminary hearing, the court lacks jurisdiction to compel discovery.

He said the CNMI, like most jurisdictions in the United States, currently has no rule that provides discovery before or during a preliminary hearing.

In fact, he added, the NMI Rules of Evidence “expressly say that they do not apply to a preliminary hearing.”

“Judge Camacho invented one anyway,” Bradley said. “Discovery takes place after arraignment, in preparation for a trial. Discovery does not apply to a preliminary hearing.”

“He said this is important to the NMI Supreme Court “because only the chief justice has the constitutional authority to propose new rules, to be reviewed by the Legislature. By inventing a new rule, Judge Camacho skipped that democratic process and imposed his own personal view of the law without participation of the Supreme Court, the Legislature or the public through a comment process. That seems to be a very dictatorial approach to creating the law.”

Rudolph, who is represented by attorney Vincent Seman, will return to court for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 14 at 10 a.m.

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