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In May 2024, the Northern Marianas Judiciary will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Judicial Reorganization Act of 1989, which laid the foundation of the Commonwealth Supreme Court and the Superior Court.

From 1978 to 1989, the judicial branch was only comprised of the trial court, which heard exclusively cases that did not require a jury trial. The federal district court would assist in hearing local civil and criminal cases. The federal district court’s appellate division also heard appeals from the trial court and was comprised of a federal district court judge, a trial court judge, and another federal district judge assigned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


The Judicial Reorganization Act of 1989 converted the trial court into the Supreme Court and Superior Court. With this act, all local cases returned to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.

In 1997, a legislative initiative transformed the Commonwealth Judiciary into constitutional courts, making it a true separate and independent branch of government under Article IV of the NMI Constitution.


The Judiciary made great strides during its first thirty-five years, strengthening and improving the administration of justice. Progress is best seen in the Judiciary’s commitment to public accessibility, adaptive technology, and ever-advancing specialized treatment courts. Since 1989, the Judiciary has achieved significant milestones:

  • Completion of modern facilities, including the development and construction of Guma’ Hustisia in 1994, Kotten Tinian in 1998, and Rota Centron Hustisia in 2005.

  • Advancements in technology, allowing for electronic case management and e-filing of Supreme Court appeals since 2006 and Superior Court cases since 2020.

  • The employment of professional, dedicated staff, growing from less than 10 employees to over 100 today, and a commitment to constant professional development through internal trainings and off-island conferences.

  • Fifteen years of Strategic Planning, culminating in three adopted Strategic Plans, including the 2023 Strategic Plan that will guide the Judiciary through 2028.

  • Creation of two specialized treatment courts, Drug Court in 2016 and the Mental Health Court Docket in 2021, with active planning to add more courts.

  • Implementation of innovative Community Outreach Programs, such as high school Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions, law lectures open to the public, school tours, and Open House events.

To commemorate this momentous occasion, the Judiciary will hold numerous events leading up to the May 2024 anniversary celebration:

  • Justices and Judges in the Classroom

  • Court Tours

  • Konbetsasion: Understanding the Covenant

  • Continuing Legal Education events

  • Treatment Courts Month

  • Law Week Proclamation

  • High School Moot Court Competition

  • High School Mock Trial Competition

  • Law Day Essay & Poster Contest

  • Radio and Television Talk Shows

Additionally, the Judiciary will unveil a historic public exhibition in Guma’ Hustisia’s Atrium, highlighting the history and heritage of the courts system from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to today. Features will include:

  • Official portraits and short biographies of past and present Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and Presiding Judges of the Superior Court

  • Official portraits of current Justices and Judges

  • Retired robes from previous Justices and Judges

  • Photographs of Guma’ Hustisia, Kotten Tinian, and Rota Centron Hustisia courthouses

  • Programs from past events hosted by the Judiciary

  • A timeline outlining pivotal phases of the Judiciary’s history

  • Time Capsule

The Judiciary is proud of its many accomplishments in the past 35 years and will continue to work harder to improve access to justice in the years to come.

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