Calling a court's order a misstep, the Office of the Attorney General is objecting to U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood's decision requiring the CNMI government to compensate the NMI Retirement Fund's trustee ad litem, Joseph C. Razzano.
Assistant attorney general Reena Patel said there is no legal basis to require the CNMI government to compensate Razzano.
It is fundamentally unjust to require the CNMI government to compensate the trustee ad litem because it has not been found liable for any wrongdoing in this case, said Patel in a motion for reconsideration and objections filed in federal court on Wednesday on behalf of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, and the CNMI government.
Patel said the CNMI government was not even the party that requested for a trustee ad litem to be appointed in connection with the lawsuit filed by Betty Johnson.
The government lawyer said that Razzano's rate of compensation is unreasonable.
Patel asked the federal court to reconsider and rescind its order.
Razzano is billing the CNMI government $34,620.80 for expenses and professional fees.
Tydingco-Gatewood ordered the CNMI government to pay Razzano within five business days from Wednesday, Oct. 17.
Razzano is also asking for $19,935.72 in payment for the professional fees and expenses of the Fund's two other attorneys, Braddock J. Huesman and Daniel Berman.
Patel argues that the most equitable compensation scheme would be for the court to cover the costs of Razzano or for Johnson to cover the trustee ad litem's expenses as she requested the appointment.
What happens then if Johnson's case is dismissed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, Patel asked. “Would the people of the Commonwealth be stuck with the fees for the trustee ad litem who was appointed at the request of the plaintiff in the event that her claims are deemed to be unmeritorious?” she asked.
Patel said the $34,620.80 that Razzano is asking for just one month of services and expenses is “clearly unreasonable.” This comes close to exhausting the annual cap of $42,000 for the entire Fund board's compensation, she added.
Tydingco-Gatewood earlier ruled that the CNMI government shall be responsible for compensation and expenses for Razzano and all persons or entities employed or contracted by the trustee ad litem in carrying out his duties.