A bill that proposes to regulate the practice of law in the CNMI got the boot after members of a House of Representatives committee voted to table the bill.
The House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, led by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), unanimously voted to set aside the bill in concurrence with an opinion by Attorney General Edward Manibusan’s office.
According to the OAG’s opinion, vice speaker Janet Maratita’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-162 steps over several boundaries of law regulations, including the authority of the Judiciary through the chief justice to regulate admission to and governance of lawyers in the Commonwealth. The OAG also noted that other portions of the bill invades the jurisdiction of the federal government in determining who can represent the federal government in federal court.
“[The bill] proposes to completely revamp the unauthorized practice of law statute… The attempted overhaul of [the current law] blurs the lines between what is the practice of law and what is not the practice of law and puts potential clients and the general public at risk to rely on the legal advice of someone who is not licensed to practice law,” the OAG opined according to documents obtained by Saipan Tribune.
H.B. 20-162 has sections that allow unlicensed individuals to represent other individuals in court.
The OAG opinion pointed out that the current law is sufficient to regulate the practice of law in the CNMI.
House minority leader Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) moved to table the bill in its entirety, with Rep. Frank Aguon (R-Saipan) and Rep. Blas “BJ” Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) simultaneously seconding the motion.