The Judiciary has reaffirmed its need to add more probation officers and court marshals.
During a budget hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on Capital Hill last Friday, Judiciary representatives outlined their need for additional manpower in explaining their budget request of $15 million for fiscal year 2019.
Committee chair Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) said that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had proposed a little over $7 million for the Judiciary.
“We are going to have to look at what they requested,” said Demapan, adding that the Judiciary had talked about hiring 39 more. “I don’t know if that is something we can accommodate in its entirety. We have to look at the priorities of the Judiciary.”
According to Sonia Camacho, the director of Courts, 14 of the 39 new positions would be for probation officers. “The majority of the [new positions] are for law enforcement: 14 for the Probation Office, 10 for the Court Marshal Services, three for Drug Court, one for the Law Revision Commission, and the rest are for the Office of the Clerk of Drug Court operations on Rota and Saipan,” she said.
The Judiciary currently has 12 probation officers, Camacho said, 10 of them locally funded, while the other two are federally funded.
“The [Court Marshal Services] currently has eight on board,” she said. Rota and Tinian have one marshal each; the remaining six are on Saipan.
Demapan said if the funding for the 14 new positions could not be found, his committee would review the needs of the Probation Office to determine a “number feasible for them to continue meeting the mandate of that office.”
“They have 2,600 cases; of that, 1,600 are active,” said Demapan, citing data obtained from Friday’s discussion. The Judiciary said the ratio of probation officers to cases is at 100:1.
“The ratio is…much higher than the rest of the nation, so that is something that we are going to definitely look at here… There are a lot of components within the Judiciary, so it is not just looking at one activity and making [a] determination,” added Demapan.
In fiscal year 2018, the Judiciary asked for $8.3 million; Torres proposed a budget of $5.9 million. It eventually got over $6.6 million.