Saipan attorney Charles P. Reyes Jr. is planning to launch in the next general election a petition for a constitutional amendment to have the CNMI Judiciary get independent funding.
Reyes in an interview said the Judiciary should be independently funded from anywhere between 5 and 8 percent or a reasonable amount so that every year they don’t have to go to the Legislature to ask for money.
“It is inappropriate for the Judiciary to be doing that every year. They should not be beholden to the Legislature or the administration for their funding,” he said.
The lawyer cited that the Office of the Public Auditor gets a mandated 1 percent from the budget, while the Public School System has a certain percentage.
Reyes said that in the last general election, the petition for independent funding for PSS was successfully achieved.
“We need to have that for the Judiciary too. Why? Because the Judiciary needs to be completely independent,” he pointed out.
Reyes cited cases against the government like the one handled by attorney Michael Dotts in the Anthony Pellegrino lawsuit and others like land compensation, and medical malpractice lawsuits against the hospital, that still have not been paid and still being litigated.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said.
The Judiciary, the lawyer said, needs to be completely independent so they can make completely lawful, objective decisions.
Reyes underscored the importance of having independent Judiciary so there is absolutely no political consideration and there is no financial consideration.
He said there should be a petition just like what former representative Tina Sablan did for the Open Government Act.
Reyes said court translators and lawyers appointed as counsels for indigent clients need to get paid on timely basis at a reasonable rate.
He said every year, the Judiciary has to worry about their funding.
“They need to have enough funding to take care of Rota and Tinian and to take care of the lawyers that they appoint, to take care of translators and investigators. All of them are not getting paid fairly and on timely basis because of lack of resources,” Reyes added.