Nguyen v. United States, 539 U.S. 69, 5 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 69 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

to the jurisdiction of the District Court of Guam.5 The Chief Judge of the District for the Northern Mariana Islands, unlike an Article III judge, is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a term of 10 years, "unless sooner removed by the President for cause." 6

The highly unusual presence of a non-Article III judge as a member of the Ninth Circuit panel occurred during special sittings in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. When the Court of Appeals heard arguments in Guam, the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit invited the Chief Judge of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands to participate. A judge of the District Court of Guam was similarly invited to participate in appeals heard while the Ninth Circuit sat in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The panel affirmed petitioners' convictions without dissent. 284 F. 3d 1086 (2002). Neither Nguyen nor Phan objected to the composition of the panel before the cases were submitted for decision; neither petitioner sought rehearing after the Court of Appeals rendered judgment to challenge the panel's authority to decide their appeals. Each did, however, file a petition for certiorari raising the question whether the judgment of the Court of Appeals is invalid because of the participation of a non-Article III judge on the panel. In accordance with this Court's Rule 10(a), we granted the writ, 537 U. S. 999 (2002), to determine whether

5 "The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands shall have the jurisdiction of a District Court of the United States, including, but not limited to, the diversity jurisdiction provided for in section 1332 of title 28 and that of a bankruptcy court of the United States.

"The district court shall have original jurisdiction in all causes in the Northern Mariana Islands not described in subsection (a) of this section jurisdiction over which is not vested by the Constitution or laws of the Northern Mariana Islands in a court or courts of the Northern Mariana Islands." 48 U. S. C. 1822. The text of the statute closely follows the corresponding provisions of the Organic Act of Guam. See S. Rep. No. 95-475, p. 3 (1977).

6 48 U. S. C. 1821(b)(1).


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