Now that a fiscal year 2013 budget law is in place, the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations has set an Oct. 10 public hearing on Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s chief justice nominee, Alexandro C. Castro, a “welcomed development” for the Fitial administration.
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), chairman of the EAGI Committee, said yesterday that his panel received all the required documents from the Judiciary and the Office of the Governor, and these are now under review in preparation for Wednesday's hearing at 9am in the Senate chamber on Capital Hill.
“We said earlier that once we have a budget law, we will set a public hearing date on the chief justice nomination, and we did,” Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
The governor nominated associate justice Alexandro C. Castro on Sept. 13 to serve as chief justice of the CNMI Supreme Court, a post he has been occupying in an acting capacity since the late chief justice Miguel S. Demapan stepped down last year.
Castro’s nomination requires the advice and consent of the Senate.
Press secretary Angel Demapan, when asked for comment yesterday, said “this is certainly welcome development.”
“The administration strongly believes that Justice Castro is the right choice to lead the Judiciary moving forward. We hope that the Senate will act swiftly to confirm the acting chief justice,” Demapan added.
The Senate EAGI panel is urging members of the public to submit written testimony before the public hearing. It also asked the following witnesses to testify at the hearing: representatives from the governor's office, staff and management of the CNMI Supreme Court, judges, and private citizens.
Fitial’s failure to nominate a chief justice since October 2011 as required by the CNMI Constitution is one of the allegations of “neglect of duty” listed in a milestone resolution impeaching him.
House Resolution 17-111 listed 16 articles of impeachment against Fitial for felony, corruption, and neglect of duty. A special committee formed by House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) is currently holding impeachment hearings.
House minority leader Joe Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), main author of the resolution, said the governor’s nomination of Castro “does not remedy” the allegation of neglect of duty against Fitial by not appointing a chief justice more than 90 days since the post was vacated, or from October 2011 up until at least the filing of the impeachment resolution on Aug. 27, 2012.
If and when confirmed by the Senate, Castro will serve an eight-year term.