Temporary closure of District Court from physical access, other restriction extended


U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has extended until May 15, 2020, the temporary closure of physical access to the court, including the clerk’s office and the Office of Pretrial and Probation.

In the order Friday, Manglona said access to the court will only be available in accordance with procedures. Court employees will be available by telephone and email from 8am until 5pm on Monday through Friday, other than legal holidays, while they are teleworking during this courthouse closure.

Statute of limitations, statutory deadlines, and other required deadlines will not be tolled or excluded during this period unless specifically ordered by the court.

Manglona’s new order amends and replaces her previous order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including recent confirmed cases on Saipan.

The new order restricting access to the courthouse and limiting proceedings complies with the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health authorities about taking precautions to reduce the possibility of exposure to the coronavirus and to help stop the spread of the virus.

The judge also noted that President Donald J. Trump has declared a national public health emergency.

“In issuing this order, the court has weighed the right of public access to the court against the need to protect the health and safety of the public,” Manglona said.

Manglona said entry restrictions will remain in effect until otherwise ordered. She said court security will deny entry into the courthouse the following:

If you have been asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate by any doctor, hospital or health agency in the last 14 days;

If you have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days;

If you have had a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or flu symptoms within the last 72 hours; or

If you are currently showing symptoms of a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or flu.

Manglona said notice of the entry protocols applies to the public as well as all tenants and employees working in the Horiguchi Building.

She said individuals prevented from entering the building will be provided contact information of the court and all tenants of the courthouse so that they may attempt to conduct their business by phone or other remote means.

All civil and criminal jury selections and jury trials scheduled before May 15 are continued pending further court’s order.

All regularly scheduled grand jury proceedings are continued to May 18. However, the U.S. Attorney may schedule grand jury proceedings for emergency or essential matters after consulting Manglona.

To the extent possible, all civil, criminal, and bankruptcy hearings will be conducted by telephone or video conference and determined by the presiding judge.

All sentencing and revocation hearings scheduled to be heard on or before May 15 will be conducted in conformance with Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act authorization for video and audio conferencing in certain criminal proceedings.

In cases where a defendant does not consent to proceeding via video conferencing, these sentencing and revocation hearings are continued until further court’s order.

In addition, Manglona said, any previously ordered presentence report deadlines in these continued cases are vacated and will be rescheduled.

Manglona said criminal matters, such as initial appearances, arraignments and detention hearings, will be conducted by video conference with the defendant’s consent.

Due to the court’s reduced ability to empanel jurors, the time period of the continuances implemented by this order will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act, she said, and that the court will issue findings in individual cases.

Manglona said the court is cognizant of the right of criminal defendants to a speedy trial under the 6th Amendment, and the application of that right in cases involving defendants who are detained pending trial. Manglona said any motion by a criminal defendant seeking an extension to this order to exercise that right should be directed to the judge assigned to the matter.

She postponed all naturalization ceremonies, attorney admissions and other non-case related proceedings.

Manglona said the review and execution of warrants and complaints will be conducted remotely as arranged with the individual judge.

On filing and payments, Manglona said, all business with the clerk’s office should be conducted by telephone and email from 8am to 5pm on Monday through Friday, except legal holidays.

All requests for court documents, including summons, subpoenas and federal records clearances, must be made by email to qclerk@nmid.uscourts.gov. or by calling the deputy clerk on duty at (670) 237-1200.

Cash/currency will not be accepted at this time. Manglona said only checks or money orders will be accepted. Criminal debts, miscellaneous fees, or any other payments must be made out to “Clerk, U.S. District Court.” Payments should be mailed to: United States District Court for the NMI P.O. Box 500687 Saipan, MP 96950.

Filings will continue to be processed in all cases via the CM/ECF electronic system, except for case openings and sealed matters. Email filings will continue to be accepted. Those who must make in-person filings or payments may call the deputy clerk on duty at (670) 237-1200 and will be instructed to leave materials at the drop box at the courthouse.

In-person filings and payments will only be available from 8am to 12pm on Monday through Friday, except for legal holidays.

All dropped off materials must be placed in a sealed envelope and will be received after screening by security. On the outside of the envelope, state the name of the person making the payment or filing, the case number (if applicable), and a contact phone number in case of any questions. Mailed and dropped off materials may not be processed until three business days after receipt by the court. For any filings that require immediate attention, contact the deputy clerk on duty at (670) 237-1200. Documents for filing or receipting will have the effective date of receipt by the court, not when processed.

On proceedings, Manglona said members of the public may call in to listen to any scheduled public hearing on the phone number provided for each hearing. She said this number will be published on the court’s website at htpp://www.nmid.uscourts.gov/calendar.php. The judge said recording or broadcasting any hearing in any manner is strictly prohibited. Manglona said violations of this prohibition may be found in contempt of court.

On signing documents, Manglona said signatures required from any party including consents to telephonic or videoconferencing, financial affidavits, waiver of preliminary hearings, pretrial and probation reports, and appearance bonds/orders for release will be performed electronically with the /s/ [name] format. Defense counsel may sign on behalf of the defendant, after receiving the defendant’s consent, and file the document electronically. Manglona said parties will confirm e-signatures during a hearing.

Pretrial services are authorized to email the pretrial services report to assigned counsel in each case to facilitate videoconferencing or the telephonic hearings. Counsel may use the pretrial services report solely for the purposes of bail determination or pretrial release. Upon completion of the hearing, counsel must permanently delete the emailed pretrial services report and promptly shred any hard copies. She ordered that no record of the pretrial services report may be kept or re-disclosed by the recipient under any circumstances.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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