U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has issued an order limiting access to the courthouse and reducing court’s operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manglona issued the order late afternoon Monday in recognizing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health authorities have advised taking precaution to reduce the possibility of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and to help stop the spread of the virus, and that President Trump has declared a national public health emergency.
Manglona said in issuing this order, she has weighed the right of public access to the court against the need to protect the health and safety of the public.
The judge said until there has been a determination that these restrictions are no longer necessary, court security will deny entry into the courthouse:
• If you have traveled outside the CNMI within the last 14 days.
• Or if you have had close contact with someone who has traveled outside of the CNMI within the last 14 days.
• Or if you’ve been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.
• Or if you’ve been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
• Or if you have had a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or flu symptoms within the last 72 hours.
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.
Manglona limited court proceedings until April 26, 2020.
She ordered that all scheduled civil and criminal jury selections and jury trials are continued pending further court’s order.
Manglona said all grand jury proceedings are continues unless otherwise she ordered.
However, she said, the U.S. Attorney may request to schedule grand jury proceedings for emergency or essential matters.
She said the schedule for all other civil and criminal hearings will be determined on a case by case basis by the presiding judge in the matter.
Manglona said due to the court’s reduced ability to empanel jurors during this public health response, the time period of the continuance implemented by this order will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act.
Manglona said she finds that the ends of justice served by ordering these continuances outweigh the best interest of the public and each defendant’s right to speedy indictment or trial.
She said the court may extend the period of exclusion as circumstances may warrant.
Manglona postponed all naturalization ceremonies, attorney admissions, and other non-case related proceedings.
The judge said criminal matters, such as initial appearances, arraignments and detention hearings will continue as scheduled without restriction.
Until April 26, 2020, the clerk’s office will be open to the public for limited hours with reduced staffing on Mondays through Fridays from 8am until 12pm, except legal holidays, beginning yesterday.
Manglona said business with the clerk’s office should be conducted by telephone and email to the extent possible.
“Unless pre-payment is required, such as for new cases and petitions, any document that cannot be submitted by CM/ECF should be emailed to email@example.com,” she said.
The judge said all requests for court documents, including summons, subpoenas, and federal records clearances, should be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Manglona said payments should be submitted by mail with postmarks indicating date of submission, but do not mail cash.
She said checks or money orders must be made out to “Clerk, U.S. District Court” and mailed to P.O. Box 500687, Saipan, MP 96950.
The CM/ECF electronic filing system is unaffected by Manglona’s order and will remain online.
For this reason, Manglona said, the clerk’s office will be operating by telework on Monday through Friday from 1pm to 5pm.