From time to time the issue of the Judicial Building Fund is raised in the media. The Judiciary feels it is important that the facts concerning the establishment of the Fund and the respective roles and responsibilities of the government branches and departments be understood.
Public Law No. 7-25, “The Judicial Building Fund Act of 1990” was enacted to establish a judicial building fund dedicated to financing the construction and furnishing of an appropriate structure to house the courts of the Commonwealth. This fund was established within the Department of Finance. All criminal and civil fines and all revenues collected by the courts of the Commonwealth are to be deposited and credited to the Judicial Building Fund.
Realizing in 1994 that court collections by themselves were going to be insufficient to finance the construction of a new judicial complex, the 9th Legislature passed the Judicial Building Financing Act, Public Law No.9-3, which committed the Commonwealth government to securing a loan from the NMI Retirement Fund to build the Saipan Judicial Complex. The CNMI took on this loan of approximately $15 million as a general obligation backed by the full faith and credit of the Commonwealth government. PL 9-3 directs the Director of Finance to pay out of the general fund all obligations of the Commonwealth government incurred pursuant to the loan to the extent that such obligations cannot be paid out of court collections.
Since 1995, the Court has collected an estimated $15 million in fees and fines to be deposited and credited to the Judicial Building Fund. The Judiciary has honored its legal obligation of transferring its court collections to the Department of Finance.
The Judiciary has transmitted all court collections to the Department of Finance and any additional obligations for the loan are to be paid out of the General Fund pursuant to PL 9-3. The Judiciary has met with Retirement and the Department of Finance to assist in addressing any arrearage but the Judiciary is not a party to the loan agreement. Therefore, the CNMI Department of Finance and the NMI Retirement Fund should be contacted for more information about the status of the Saipan Judicial Complex loan.
Copies of Public Laws 7-25 and 9-3 are found on the Law Revision Commission's website at www.cnmilaw.org. (NMI Judiciary)