The Senate and Reps. Janet U. Maratita and Ray N. Yumul want to depose government officials, including Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, to seek documents or evidence in connection with their lawsuit against the governor and co-defendants over a $190-million no-bid power purchase agreement.
The Office of the Attorney General, representing Fitial, objected to the deposition and asked the court to quash or modify the notice of deposition and subpoena.
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman refused yesterday to rule on the deposition issue at this time, holding it in abeyance until a motion to dismiss the lawsuit is resolved.
Wiseman will hear the motion to dismiss filed by the OAG on behalf of Fitial on Oct. 11, 2012, at 1:30pm.
Attorney Ramon K. Quichocho appeared at yesterday's hearing as counsel for the Senate and Reps. Maratita and Yumul. Assistant attorney general David Lochabay appeared for Fitial.
In a notice sent on Sept. 18, 2012, Quichocho said he wants to depose Fitial on Oct. 9, 2012, for the purpose of discovery, or as evidence, or both. He said Fitial must be deposed as he was the one that negotiated the power purchase agreement.
Quichocho also sent on Sept. 19, 2012, a notice to depose House Speaker Eli Cabrera, Commonwealth Utilities Corp. acting executive director Alan Fletcher, Finance Secretary Larissa Larson, and Rep. Joseph Palacios. The notices were accompanied by subpoenas.
In Fitial's motion to quash the notice of deposition and subpoena, Lochabay said they just want the case on an ordinary track. “Just treat this case just any other case. There's nothing special,” he said.
What is particularly outrageous, Lochabay, were the subpoenas the plaintiffs served on the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Bank of Guam that he said obviously relate to the departure of former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham from the CNMI-a matter that is totally irrelevant to any issues in the complaint.
Lochabay said these are prime examples of plaintiffs' “continuing abuse of the discovery process.”
The government lawyer asked the court to issue a case management order and maintain the closest supervision of the case to ensure that it does not become a political circus.
Lochabay also invoked the high-ranking official privilege in Fitial's case, saying that courts have recognized for over 70 years the need to protect ranking government officials from the time-consuming demands of litigation over actions taken within the scope of the offices they hold.
Quichocho pointed out, however, that only two people knew about the deal-Fitial and former attorney general Edward Buckingham. He cited Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. as stating that they did not know about the power purchase agreement.
“There's one other person who knows, but he is a fugitive of justice,” the lawyer said, referring to Buckingham.
Quichocho said that deposing the governor is allowed because he had personal knowledge of the deal and there is no alternative source for that information.
The Senate, Maratita and Yumul are suing Fitial, Buckingham, CUC, and Saipan Development LLC in a bid to have the 25-year power purchase agreement declared as “unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable, and unjust, and therefore, cancelled.”
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman has already issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits Fitial and co-defendants from pursuing all agreements associated or related to the agreement.