The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Office of the Attorney General in its petition for a writ of mandamus to vacate Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho’s order to compel premature discovery or evidence at a preliminary hearing.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said that even with consent of delay from the defendant, CNMI law requires the swift disposition of a preliminary hearing, which is meant to establish probable cause.
“Our rules require a swift disposition of the preliminary hearing, the sole function of which is to establish probable cause. Though some disclosure is permissible in aid of the probable cause determination, the court’s order exceeded this narrow scope. The petition for writ of mandamus is granted,” the court stated.
In addition, the court ordered that the preliminary hearing be carried out without delay.
“The [trial] court’s overbroad order compelling production of all notes, statements, police reports, videos, etc., relevant to the determination of probable cause at the preliminary hearing is vacated and the preliminary hearing should be conducted without further delay,” the order stated.
In the case of Rudolph Rudolph, who is charged with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor, Camacho ordered the OAG to produce all tangible material used by law enforcement to establish probable cause in connection with the cross-examination of its witness.
The Commonwealth contended in its petition that discovery is beyond the scope of preliminary hearing.
It also asserted that the order was erroneous as a matter of law and manifests a persistent disregard of applicable rules.
The Commonwealth further argued that the court’s delay of the hearings violates the NMI Rule of Criminal Procedure.
In an email to Saipan Tribune from Chief Prosecutor John Bradley, he said the “strong ruling” by the Supreme Court restores the proper rule of law.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court gave speedy consideration to the arguments by chief solicitor Robby Glass,” he said.