New federal courthouse fully operational by June

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THE new energy-efficient building that will house the District Court for the NMI will be fully operational by June 2020 according to Bill Bezzant, chief deputy clerk of the court.

“We will be preparing the building for regular operation and moving in during May and June, but the dedication ceremony won’t be until July 13th,” he added.

The offices of the U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the NMI, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the U.S. Probation will also occupy the new three-story building.

Bezzant said the new courthouse will have one full courtroom, one ancillary multi-use courtroom, two judge’s chambers, and a jury assembly room.

“Public terminals will still be accessible in the lobby of the clerk’s office, on the third floor down the hallway from the courtroom,” he said.

Moreover, “The new courthouse will have day-use detention cells similar to what we have in Horiguchi Bldg.,” Bezzant said, referring to the location of the courthouse since 1991.

The new federal courthouse is located in Gualo Rai.  Photo by Bryan Manabat

“The Federal Bureau of Prisons has an agreement with the CNMI Department of Corrections to house federal prisoners at the CNMI DOC during their pretrial detention or while awaiting sentencing and transfer to federal prisons in the mainland,” Bezzant said.

As for the immigration court, Bezzant said, “That is an administrative law court operated by executive branch of the United States government; it does not fall under the judicial branch of the United States government.”

He added, “Although we sometimes provide courtesy facilities to other visiting administrative law judges, the immigration court has its own facilities in Saipan and are not part of the United States District Court.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new courthouse was held on Dec. 7, 2017 and construction was initially expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.

U.S. General Services Administration awarded a 20-year lease to Marianas Management Corp., a subsidiary of J.C. Tenorio Enterprises Inc., for the construction of the building. The lease will cost approximately $2.4 million annually.

From 2009 to 2018, a total of 1,171 cases were filed in the District Court for the NMI. An average of 30 criminal cases, 26 civil cases, and 60 miscellaneous cases each year is handled by the court, according to its annual report published in 2018.

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