Northern Mariana Islands: tax credit for lawyers representing indigent defendants; constitutional amendment to decrease number of judges

The question of how governments in general can help pay for indigent defense comes up often. In many locations, including the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), funding for such defense is a part of the judiciary’s budget, but with cuts to the judicial and other budgets it has made payment difficult. One possible way to help alleviate the burden on the judiciary was HB 17-247, which would have converted any payments owed for indigent defense into a tax credit. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary & Governmental Operations Committee where it failed to advance before a February 10, 2012 legislative deadline.

Other proposals introduced in the last year, none of which advanced, included:

  • HB 17-248 Exempts Judiciary from requirement that 1% of all appropriated funds go to the office of the Public Auditor.
  • SLI 17-11, an amendment to the NMI Constitution to decrease the minimum number of Commonwealth Superior Court (i.e. trial court) judges from 4 judges to 3.