The Survival of Customary Law in the Northern Mariana Islands

28 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2015

Date Written: August 20, 2008


The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CNMI”), a U.S. territory located in the Pacific Ocean just north of Guam, is one of few American jurisdictions in which the traditional cultural practices celebrated by a minority of the population have the force of law. Problematically, many of these laws are uncodified and no longer practiced by the majority of people in the jurisdiction. The CNMI judiciary often stumbles through cases of first impression with no guidance from the CNMI legislature, resulting in conflicting case law. This article surveys the customary law in place in the CNMI, and considers the obstacles of applying this law in a society whose culture and customs are rapidly evolving.

Suggested Citation

Ristroph, Elizaveta, The Survival of Customary Law in the Northern Mariana Islands (August 20, 2008). Chicago-Kent Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 8, No. 32, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Elizaveta Ristroph (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii at Manoa ( email )

Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Saunders Hall 107 2424 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI NA 96822
United States

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