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American Samoa Establishes Maritime Precedent Disallowing the Inclusion of Attorney’s Fees as ...

American Samoa Maritime Law Precedent

​On August 17, 2016, WH Fisheries filed a complaint against Vasco Enterprises Inc. , the owner of the F/V Carol Linda, a 274-foot fishing vessel located in Pago Pago, American Samoa. The Complaint sought foreclosure of WH Fisheries’ mortgage on the F/V Carol Linda, and the High Court of American Samoa issued a warrant for the arrest of the vessel on the same day. Thereafter, the United States of America, through local American Samoan counsel at RDA Law Firm, filed a Complaint-in-Intervention for foreclosure of the First Preferred Ship Mortgage on the vessel. There were numerous other creditors and claimants seeking recovery when the F/V Carol Linda was to be auctioned off in February 2016. Since marine surveys and reasonable estimates had placed the value of the F/V Carol Linda between $7 Million and $9 Million, there were reasonable expectations that the sale of the vessel would allow many, if […]

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Trading Pine Trees for Palm Trees: Practicing Law in U.S. Territories

Practicing Law in U.S. Territories Palm Trees American Samoa

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, an attorney recruiting me to work for his firm made the most outlandish pitch I had ever heard.He promised me a job where I would leave work every day at 4:00 p.m., and never work a weekend or holiday. In my off-time, I would drink from coconuts on world-class beaches, camp on one of the most remote islands in the United States, or fish in waters abundant with tuna and wahoo. I would wear shorts and flip-flops to work—even during court appearances. And, perhaps most importantly, he promised me an above-average salary for an attorney with my experience, and plenty of paid time off.The only catch was that I would have to leave Arkansas behind, and spend two years in American Samoa. As you can imagine, I was skeptical of this too-good-to-be-true proposition. But my wife and I decided that if the job was even half […]

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Investment Visas for the CNMI (The E Visa, L-1 Visa, and the B-1 Visa)

Immigration Attorney Investment Visa

When advising foreign investors on setting up business in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (the “CNMI”), the topic of investment visas often comes up. The CNMI is subject the immigration laws of the United States. What visa programs will work in the mainland United States will also work in the CNMI. There are a number of options for the foreign investor when it comes to an investment visa. This article will present a very simple overview of two of the most popular options, the E Visa and the L-1 Visa.This article is no substitute for consulting with a lawyer. Immigration law is very complex and determining how to apply the law is dependent on the facts of the particular visa applicant’s situation. Talk to a lawyer about your particular situation.1The E VisaThe E Visa allows, with certain exceptions, a company established outside the United States (a foreign company) […]

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CNMI Corporations and Limited Liability Companies

Corporate Law Attorney

For new investors on Saipan, there are many decisions to be made. Where will you open your business? Who will you hire? How will you find customers? But one of the first decisions that you will have to make is, what form of a business should the new business be?This article deals with two options an investor has in the form for the business to choose: the classic corporation, or the limited liability company.1Overview of Business Formation RegulationBusinesses formation is regulated by the CNMI Government.2 The Legislature has enacted statutes that both allow for various business structures and restrict what can be done. The Office of the Governor through its agencies and the Attorney General enforce the statutes. The agencies and also the Attorney General issue regulations that clarify the statutes and set forth procedures for compliance. A new investor must comply with the statutes and regulations that apply to their […]

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Child Support in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

CNMI Child Support Law Attorney

Child support has an important financial effect on all parties involved. It is a significant financial obligation for those who must pay it. Because delinquent child support payments bear interest, unpaid child support can balloon to an unmanageable amount quickly if not addressed. Child support plays a critical role in providing for the best interests of children in the CNMI, and ensures that each child has the financial support of two parents, regardless of the relationship between the parents.

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Saipan Real Estate Considerations for Investors

Saipan Real Estate Considerations

After more than 10 years of economic stagnation, Saipan is experiencing an economic boom. It started in late 2014 after Best Sunshine obtained an exclusive license to operate a casino on Saipan, and it picked up speed once Best Sunshine’s temporary casino training facility opened. There are now multiple direct flights from China to Saipan, Philippine Airlines has resumed direct flights between Saipan and Manila after discontinuing them about 10 years ago, and a second airline may soon be flying between Saipan and Guam. The tourists are returning to Saipan. Government revenues have increased. Business license applications are up. Construction on new projects across the island have started. And real estate has taken off! Land on Saipan is moving. Everyone is in a rush. But land transactions on Saipan can be complicated and present unexpected problems and it is the wise investor who will get help. Slow down, hire an attorney, and make informed decisions on the particular land you are being offered.

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Adoption in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

Adoption Law in CNMI

In CNMI, the best interests of the child govern adoption law and proceedings. As part of the adoption proceedings, the court may change the child’s name. When an adoption is granted, it has the effect of giving the adopted child the same legal relationship to the adoptive parent as if the adopted child were a legitimate blood relative, and severing that legal relationship between the child and the natural parents. The exception, of course, is that when a stepparent adopts the minor child of his or her spouse, only the relationship between the child and the non-spouse natural parent is terminated. Similarly, if one of the child’s natural parents dies, and the child is later adopted by the living parent’s new spouse, the child may still inherit from the deceased parent.

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Divorce in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

CNMI Divorce Law Attorney

The CNMI is a no fault divorce jurisdiction, meaning that a couple may get divorced without proving any particular reason, by simply stating that irreconcilable differences have resulted in a breakdown of the marriage. However, a party may also request a divorce for grounds that attribute fault to the other spouse, such as adultery, cruel treatment, desertion, imprisonment of three or more years, insanity or willful neglect.

A party may file for divorce without the consent of his or her spouse. If a divorce is contested, at least one of the parties must be a resident of the CNMI for ninety days or more before filing the divorce action. In practice, this means that if you have lived in the CNMI for more than ninety days, you may file for divorce here, regardless of where your spouse resides.

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A Guide to Basic Estate Planning

Estate Planning Guide

Estate planning can be compared to the creation of a personal legal “suitcase” in which all types of property ownership can be placed including personal belongings, assets, business holdings, financial resources and real estate. The person creating the “suitcase” or Trust is referred to as the Grantor or Settlor and initial Trustee. During the Grantor’s lifetime, the Grantor is in control over all of the assets placed into the Trust or “suitcase” and can take assets out and change the features of the Trust however they want. Because the Grantor has total control over the Trust, the Trust is referred to as Revocable or is frequently named a Revocable Living Trust “RLT”. There are no separate tax returns filed by the Trust and no separate identification numbers required as the RLT is considered the same as the Grantor. The big advantage of the RLT is that the Grantor has already […]

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Before You Sue, Consider Mediation

Mediation Alternative

Have you ever reached a point in your dispute with a contractor or another professional or a family member when you have said: “I’ve had it. I need a good lawyer. I’m going to sue!” As a lawyer with over 40 years in practice, let me offer a word of advice: Wait. Take a deep breath. Before you sue, consider mediation. Before you sue — which, in effect, means turning yourself over to a lawyer who will then direct and control all your communications — take stock of the power you yourself have to determine the outcome of your dispute. Mediation is the key to using that power wisely to reach a resolution that would in all probability elude you in our legal system as it is today. The data tells us that this is so. Fewer than 5 percent of the millions of cases filed annually nationwide ever see […]

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