Chief prosecutor says their job now is quite a challenge

Prosecutors resort to wonders of the internet

File photo shows the Office of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division in Susupe. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

With social distancing required as a means to minimize coronavirus transmission, how are CNMI prosecutors handling cases and dealing with investigators, victims, and staff? It’s been “quite a challenge,” according to Chief Prosecutor John Bradley yesterday.

Bradley said the twin requirements of adapting to the distancing requirements while keeping a criminal docket current has been difficult “but we are committed to keeping the wheels of justice moving.”

When asked how they are managing their cases during this coronavirus crisis, Bradley disclosed that prosecutors have all been able to set up offices in their homes, using laptops and “the wonders of the internet.” Bradley said their staff were able to connect to their central database, giving them access to working files and the records related to their criminal cases. The prosecutors also communicate regularly with email and texting. For larger meeting, prosecutors have switched to using the Zoom application for video conferencing.

“I have found it to be an amazing piece of software, much better than Skype,” said Bradley, adding that they can all appear onscreen and have great discussions, smoothly resolving their legal matters.

As to the question of how the CNMI Judiciary could improve services during these hard times, the chief prosecutor said that working with the courts have been a bit trickier because there are so many different people in different locations.

Bradley, however, pointed out that the local courts have been working hard to set up telephonic and video connections, providing a safe space for everyone. He pointed out that the courts recently adopted a new rule to permit electronic filing for criminal cases.

“We hope to improve the use of technology so that we can do just about everything [online] except hold a trial,” he said.

Bradley would like to see the traffic court resume so that people can resolve their citations.

He also acknowledged the “amazing” work of his office’s support staff, victim advocates, and investigators for the Office of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division. He said they are rotating their duties to maintain good distancing.

Bradley said he has been impressed with the calm and friendly manner everyone has shown despite strange times. “We continue to serve the public and protect the community,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong. I prefer to be in the office and meeting people directly.”

Bradley is confident that all people will come out of this pandemic with a stronger appreciation for human relationships. “I pray that everyone continue to be safe and calm,” he added.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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