Northern Mariana Islands Opportunity!
Just to clarify, we are not in the middle of Asia, but on the edge of it. We are however in the middle of nowhere. So here, on the edge, in the Northern Mariana Islands, there is a right to counsel, as we are a US. territory, something most Americans don't know anything or at least much about. This reminds me of the drunk guy who was arrested for disorderly conduct and who after confessing and then sobering up said that he knew he had the right to remain silent, he just didn't have the ability. Access to competent counsel is a right, it’s exercising that right that’s tricky.
But recruiting is tough. We're a long way from the mainland. Few people have heard of us and even fewer can find Saipan on a map. Others think we are part of China sort of (Taipei), or part of Japan (not since 1944). The NAPD web site has us as in Alabama. We are not. We are at 17 degrees north in the tropics where it’s never cooler than 72, never hotter than 89, never dark before 5:45, and that’s only late December. A short flight to the Philippines and Japan, not too far from Hawaii. L.L. Bean and Zappos and a few others know where we are, Amazon does sometimes, other have no idea.
In this small office of ideally 5 lawyers, I've worked with more than 35 lawyers from Public Defender Offices in nine state and all found it to be an interesting experience. Frustrating, challenging, difficult, but also interesting and fulfilling. Did I mention frustrating? Some stayed for decades, some are still here. Some people think this is going to be Tahiti, others Hawaii. What I tell people who have never been here is that whatever they imagine it is, they are wrong. It’s unlike any place you’ve been.
The law in many areas here is less than settled so it’s a great place for lawyers looking to make a mark. We had great success over a few year period when a Missouri Public Defender challenged several mechanistic sentencings. Currently pending in the local Supreme Court is a challenge to a sentence which exceed the statutory maximum, brought by one of us from New York.
Juvenile procedural rights are on the front burner of our Juvenile defender from California. One of us from New Mexico has led the fight for discovery at or before a preliminary hearing. Just last year we were able to help expand the right to a jury trial, which is not constitutionally mandated. Our drug court is just a year old. The prison has some policies that may be changeable. So there are new things to address seemingly every week. We, as many Public Defender Offices, are brain storming ways to challenge the unfair and unnecessary bonds put on our clients here.
The difference between this office and that of any other rural Public Defender Office in the mainland is that at the end of a trial where all the rulings went the wrong way, after a sentencing hearing where your guy got maxed, the day you filed an appeal or writ right at the deadline, and you need to just chill or tip one back, we can do it under a coconut tree on the beach across the street with our feet in 83degree water you can see through while watching the sun set towards the Philippines. In the middle of winter.
As many other Public Defender Offices, we defend those accused of meth dealing (one of our more popular felonies), meth using, domestic violence assaulting (lots), child abusing, sex abusing (I think more than average), drunk driving (plenty), robbing (not much), stealing, aggravated assaulting (machetes and plastic chairs seem to be weapons of choice, although with a recent ruling that the second amendment does apply here, that may change although I think economics will dictate otherwise) and so on. The difference is we may use a Mandarin, Tagalog, Chamorro, Palauan, Chuukies, Falawash, Pohnpeian or Bengali interpreter. And when we need a long week end to get away, we don't go to the family cabin in the woods or take a skiing trip (OK, we do do that but in Japan), we go to Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Soul, Beijing or Tokyo.
It’s not the place for everyone and so it’s hard to get good people interested, just the more adventurous looking for a taste of something different. The power sometimes goes out and the Superbowl is shown live on Monday morning.
The challenges of providing competent legal counsel are great, but there are rewards. Most people here think we are real lawyers and some even say thank you. I think just getting on the plane to come here is the hard part. Once here one can golf cheap, go to a movie, snorkel, take a bike ride, scuba dive, eat good Asian food, bad Italian food and even some American fast food.
If a challenging practice on a tropical island sounds interesting, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org