SUPERIOR Court Judge Pro Tempore Timothy Bellas will hear the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Feb. 18, 2022 at 9 a.m., according to Clerk of Court Patrick Diaz.

Represented by his legal counsel Gil Birnbrich and the Banes Horey Berman & Miller law firm, the governor has asked the Superior Court to find the House JGO’s subpoena invalid and unlawful.

The Democrat-led committee has found the Republican governor in contempt of a legislative subpoena for refusing to appear before the panel, which was investigating his public expenditures.

In his complaint, Torres said the governor “is not and cannot be lawfully held in contempt of the committee, the House of Representatives or the Legislature for failing to comply with” a legislative subpoena.

According to the governor’s complaint, “It violates the principle of separation of powers for one branch to ‘command’ another branch to take any action whatsoever.”

In response, the JGO committee, represented by House legal counsels Joseph L.G. Taijeron Jr. and Brendan Layde, told the court that the governor's complaint “does not state a claim upon which relief could be granted and should therefore be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).”

They said the complaint “consists in large measure of conclusory or speculative inferences rather than concrete factual allegations.”

Moreover, they said, it fails to join the attorney general of the Commonwealth as a required party “and he must be joined under Rule 19. If he cannot be so joined, the suit should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(7).”

On Dec. 16, 2021, CNMI Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro appointed former Judge Timothy H. Bellas to be the judge pro tempore in the lawsuit after Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja, Associate Judges Wesley Bogdan, Kenneth Govendo, Teresa Kim-Tenorio and Joseph N. Camacho recused themselves from the case.

Torres’ attorneys have requested the Superior Court to appoint a judge from outside the CNMI “who has no ties or allegiances, real or perceived,” to Commonwealth politicians.

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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