Today marks the fourth year since Joseph N. Camacho ascended to the bench as an associate judge of the Superior Court.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the people of the CNMI,” Camacho said yesterday.
Camacho regularly issues a report on some of his activities the past year.
“I believe that the position…is a public office and it is important for people to know what their public officials are doing,” he said.
Camacho thanked his assistant, Delia Salas Magofna, and law clerk Finella Murphy and other court staff, judges, and justices for their continued assistance and support.
Since Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja assigned Camacho to take over all of the Rota criminal and civil cases in January, cases at the Rota Courthouse have been moving fast. Camacho said the time standards for cases on Saipan are the same time for cases on Rota.
“The people of Rota as well as the rest of the CNMI deserve to have full access to their judicial system,” he said.
There has been no trial on Rota for over a decade but since taking over the Rota docket, Camacho has already held two jury trials and one bench trial plus TRO hearings, bail hearings, and many other civil and criminal proceedings.
Upon taking over the traffic court, Camacho removed status conferences and review hearings that he believes are unnecessary and unproductive. That way, probation officers are freed up to be in the field, supervising and monitoring traffic probationers—“resulting in the exceptionally high record of compliance.”
Camacho said they hold probationers accountable and reject their excuses that fines cannot be paid because they are not working.
“If you cannot pay the fine, then you have to work it off as community service. Pay it off or work it off but you will do something,” the judge said.
Shortly after Typhoon Soudelor, Camacho, who then served as acting presiding judge, met with then-acting governor Ralph DLG Torres to discuss the immediate needs of the Judiciary to keep the courts open.
Camacho said that Torres’ decisive action to reprogram money to purchase generator fuel to keep the Judiciary open allowed poor families to get their child support checks, typhoon victims could file documents for FEMA claims, and indigent defendants received the legal assistance they needed.
Camacho disclosed that a new and major addition in the proposed Rules of Evidence is a journalist’s privilege, which offers some protection to those who share information with the media.
“Freedom of the press and transparency in government are essential to keeping citizens informed,” he said.
Camacho chairs the newly created Mental Health Rules Committee that will draft rules that touch upon individuals with mental illnesses that come into the judicial system—as defendants, victims, witnesses, and others. He said it is their goal to complete this project within a year.
Camacho also chairs the CNMI Criminal Justice Information System and the Committee on Jury Instructions for criminal and civil cases. He has been involved with the Junior Mock Trial Program since it started over a decade ago.
Camacho continues to sit as a justice pro tem in the CNMI Supreme Court on a number of appeals when a justice has a conflict.
Camacho’s term as a judge will expire in November 2017.