The Northern Mariana Islands lie north of Australia near the Philippines. The United States acquired the islands from Japan in World War II, with the last Japanese soldier “surrendering” to U.S. officials in 1972 on the island of Saipan. The solider hid for almost 30 years due to Japanese custom and honor related to surrendering and dying in combat.
The Northern Mariana Islands are a commonwealth of the United States. Qualified residents of the islands are citizens of the United States, but they do not vote in Federal Elections. Many federal laws do not apply to the Mariana Islands, such as labor laws.
Human rights abuses attributed to the lack of meaningful labor oversight have been the subject of controversy on the islands and on the mainland. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was alleged to have had ties to business on the islands fighting to keep U.S. labor laws out of Northern Mariana. Island businesses interests have thus far relented, and the islands remain free of U.S. regulations such as minimum wage and hourly limits.
The Northern Mariana judicial system resembles that of any other American State. The island has a Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Federal District Court responsible to the 9th Circuit of the Federal Judicial System. There are currently 127 Northern Mariana lawyers practicing on the islands, with 4 new lawyers admitted in 2008.
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