Non-state week: Northern Mariana Islands – Drug testing for judges vetoed; courts may use abandoned funds for indigent defense

I mentioned back in the spring of 2014 here, here, and here the rash of efforts to drug test judges and other elected officials introduced in several states. At the same time, a similar bill was working its way through the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature. HB 18-152 would have required all “elected officials” to be randomly drug tested and the results made public; Northern Mariana Islands judges are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, but must stand for retention elections every 6 or 8 years. The bill was vetoed in April 2014 over concerns regarding its constitutionality. The House subsequently overrode the veto but it does not appear the Senate did so.

Other pieces of legislation affecting the courts debated in the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature included:

HB 18-142 Provides where the Commonwealth Judiciary is holding third party funds for longer than one year (“abandoned funds”), the Judiciary may transfer funds to special account for use by the judiciary to pay for indigent defense and pro se legal services. Signed into law 2/14/14.

HB 18-123 ORIGINAL: Grants Chief Justice power to “reprogram” (reallocate) 100% of all funds appropriated by legislature to judiciary. AMENDED:  Grants Chief Justice power to “reprogram” (reallocate) 50% of all funds appropriated by legislature to judiciary. Approved by full House 2/11/14. In Senate (no committee).