Top NMI Public Defender Resigns Over Budget Cuts

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As office faces 18 percent cut, Hardwicke ‘takes the ax’

By Andrew O. De Guzman

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 2, 2013) – Chief Public Defender Adam Hardwicke has resigned after seven years of defending the rights of indigents accused in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Hardwicke’s last day in the office was Friday, Dec. 28. On that day, this reporter dropped by and saw Hardwicke preparing for the transition with staffers and the assistant public defenders.

Because his office sustained an 18 percent budget cut for 2013, he said "someone has to take the ax."

He added: "So I’m firing myself and the time is perfect because I’m in need of a career change."

Hardwicke, who will move to Malaysia, has recommended Assistant Public Defender Douglas Hartig to be the next chief public defender.

Aside from Hardwicke and Hartig, Assistant Public Defenders Benjamin Petersburg, Daniel Guidotti, and Matthew Meyer are the other members of the PDO legal team. Their staffers include Ulysses Kapileo, Eula Matsumoto, Dolores Saures and Laurie Peterka.

Hardwicke told Variety he is "hop[ing] that the administration will support [his] recommendation by nominating Doug to be the next PD."

"If nominated, I have confidence that the Senate will confirm his appointment," Hardwicke said, referring to Hartig.

Hardwicke said he is "leaving for various reasons but the primary one is because I’m ready for a change."

According to Hardwicke, "Although the executive branch allowed the Legislature to cut my office’s budget for FY2013 by 18 percent at the last second without warning, thus obligating me to fire somebody from my office, the truth is that I was ready for a change. I’ve always stated that if someone is going to be fired it’s going to me. So I’m firing myself and the time is perfect because I’m in need of a career change.

"I have an opportunity to continue to provide services to individuals in great need but not as an advocate for the indigent accused. I will be moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for three months of training and what happens after that is still up in the air, but it’s possible that I get to move back [to the CNMI]."

Hardwicke said the CNMI has to "evolve into a more enlightened jurisdiction.

"I believe we are able to see the heart of a community by how it treats its indigent accused. It’s easy for a community to charge a poor individual with a crime, but it is difficult, and takes character and heart for that same community to provide for the fair treatment of that same individual through the criminal justice system. That fair treatment of the indigent accused is costly, but I believe absolutely necessary."

Hardwicke concluded: "I want to thank everyone who has supported me and [the] office and hope that you will continue to support and fight for the rights of the indigent accused by demanding from this government that the CNMI PDO be sufficiently funded."

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