Effective today, Monday, the U.S. District Court for the NMI will resume regular business hours at the new U.S. Courthouse building in Gualo Rai as part of a phased approach to reopening the courthouse to the public. Its business hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, except on legal holidays. The intake counter at the clerk’s office closes during the lunch hour from 12pm to 1pm and at 4:30pm each business day.
In an order last Friday, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona said she issued the new order after having weighed the right of public access to the court against the need to protect the health and safety of the public. While the COVID-19 threat continues to exist, Manglona said it appears that the movement restrictions, home isolation, and social distancing measures implemented across the CNMI have minimized the spread of the disease.
There have been 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CNMI, with two deaths. Right now, based on a five-color Community Vulnerability Risk Levels, the CNMI is at Level Blue, which is just a step from the safest level, which is Green.
To maintain social distancing, Manglona said a limited number of members of the public will be admitted to attend open court proceedings.
Manglona said anyone entering the building must wear a face mask, sanitize their hands upon entering, and exercise social distancing (stay 6 feet apart from others).
Court security will deny entry to anyone who is not wearing face masks; anyone who has been diagnosed with an active case of COVID-19, or has had direct contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with an active case of COVID-19 and has not subsequently tested negative for COVID-19.
The court security will also deny entry to anyone who has been asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate by any doctor, hospital, or health agency in the last 14 days or has not subsequently tested negative for COVID-19.
The court security will deny entry anyone who has experienced the following symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control has identified as possible signs of COVID-19 in the last 14 days:
– Fever or chills
– Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
– Persistent pain or pressure in chest
– New confusion
– Inability to wake or stay awake
– Bluish lips or face
– Muscle or body aches
– New loss of taste or smell
– Sore throat
– Congestion or runny nose
– Nausea or vomiting
Manglona said individuals prevented from entering the building will be provided contact information for the court and all tenants of the courthouse so that they may attempt to conduct their business by phone or other remote means.
As for court proceedings, Manglona said the court will resume normal operations, subject to restrictions.