Written by attorney Timothy M. B. Farrell

CNMI Legal Guide - Intestate Succession to Jury


Custom is closely mirrored by 8 C.M.C. 2901, which deals with intestate succession. Under Chamorro custom, the surviving spouse receives a life estate, the issue get a vested remainder in fee. If there is no surviving spouse, the children get all the property by representation. If the spouse is not of NMD, then the spouse takes the maximum interest in property allowed by law, but not an interest in fee.

Other Chamorro property is split evenly between the surviving spouse and the children. If there is no surviving spouse, then the children take all by representation. See Ancestor’s Land topic.

Under Carolinian custom, family land is held by a customary trustee. Family land cannot be sold or mortgaged without family consent. Family consent is obtained with a majority vote. The trustee's vote should go with the majority. The trustee is obligated to guard the land, use it and collect proceeds from it.

When the trustee dies, title passes to the oldest surviving sister. If there is no surviving sister, then to the oldest brother. If none, to the oldest surviving daughter, and so on.

All other lands pass to the surviving spouse in fee. Unless there are surviving children, in which case the spouse gets a life estate as trustee, the remainder to the oldest surviving daughter as trustee.

All other Carolinian property of a deceased husband is given to the surviving spouse in fee. If the wife dies first, then the surviving husband gets a life estate with the remainder to the issue.

For those who are not N.M.D., the surviving spouse gets all the property in fee. If there are children, the surviving spouse gets $50,000.00 and half the remainder, the children receive the other half of the estate by representation.

The above distribution scheme only applies to those who die after 1984. Those dying earlier have their estates distributed according to pre-code custom.


Com. R. Civ. P. 54 to 57.

Judgments may be given for or against one or more of several plaintiffs or one or more of several defendants either jointly or severally.

Judgment on the Pleadings - available under rule 12(c), identical to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

Summary judgment- provided by rule 56, similar to FRCP 56.

Declaratory judgments - See rule 57 of Civil Procedure.

Vacation or modification - See rules 59 and 60.

Setting aside - 7 C.M.C. 1304

Any defendant not personal notified may at any time within one year after final judgment enter an appearance and the court shall thereupon set aside the judgment and permit the defendant to plead.

Foreign Judgments – the CNMI has adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act of 1994. 7 C.M.C. 4401. The law is to be interpreted to effectuate its general purpose to make it uniform with other adopting states and jurisdictions. The filing fee is the same as that established by the clerk for filing civil actions.

JURY : 1 N.M.I. Const. art. VIII

The legislature may provide for trial by jury in criminal or civil cases. Juries are not required for misdemeanors or felonies with punishments of less than five years or a $2,000 penalty. A jury trial must be demanded in a civil case not later than sixty days prior to the date set for trial. Com. R. Civ. P. 38.

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