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Monday, April 21, 2014

Taisague’s motion to stop his pension benefit cut is denied

U.S. District Court for the NMI Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood denied yesterday Jesus I. Taisague’s motion to stop Gov. Eloy S. Inos and the CNMI government from withholding or failing to pay his pension benefits in full.

In denying Taisague’s motion for preliminary injunction, Tydingco-Gatewood said that, unlike a wrongfully terminated employee whose injury is the loss of all income and health insurance, Taisague’s injury is no more than a 25-percent deferment on his pension—without any loss of his health insurance coverage.

The judge noted that Taisague has not shown why this 25-percent deferment is an “irreparable injury.”

Tydingco-Gatewood said that Taisague’s motion operates under a now-erroneous assumption that he will lose all his retirement benefits and therefore will be unable to pay for needed medical work, financial obligations, and sustenance.

Tydingco-Gatewood said that Taisague asserts that he “is still not getting his 100-percent pension” without detailing any irreparable injuries that will follow this deficiency.

The judge described the injuries Taisague referred to as “amorphous ones,” such as “damage to reputation, emotional distress, and reduced sense of well-being.”

Tydingco-Gatewood said this case appears more akin to the monetary injury incurred from a loss of employment: He was receiving 100 percent of his pension payments; now he is receiving 75 percent.

“This monetary change does not also carry a change in Taisague’s duties or obligations. Nor does it carry a social stigma. At bottom, it is solely a monetary injury that can be repaired,” she said.

Taisague also argues that nothing can stop the government from later electing to stop providing his retirement benefits.

“This is possible, to be sure,” the judge concedes. “But harm must be more than possible; it must be likely.” Tydingco-Gatewood pointed out that Taisague has not submitted any evidence suggesting this to be likely.

In fact, the judge noted, all evidence indicates that Taisague will continue to receive 75 percent of his pension payments and full health insurance coverage.

“Therefore, the present possibility of the Commonwealth later electing to not pay Taisague any retirement benefits is not likely,” Tydingco-Gatewood said.

Taisague is suing Inos, the CNMI government, Finance, and the Retirement Fund for entering into a settlement agreement with Betty Johnson that, according to him, is unconstitutional and illegal.

Taisague is among the 16 persons who opted out of the Johnson settlement agreement. He tried to intervene in Johnson’s class action during the final fairness hearing but Tydingco-Gatewood denied his request as too late, among other reasons.

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