Superior Court Associate Judge Perry B. Inos yesterdays recused himself from presiding over the NMI Retirement lawsuit against Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and the CNMI government.
Inos said that after a review of the case file, he must recuse himself from handling this matter as his brother is a current government employee and a member of the defined contribution plan.
“I am therefore returning this case to the Presiding Judge [Robert Naraja] for re-assignment to another judge of the Superior Court,” said Inos in the order he wrote last week but e-filed in court yesterday.
Fund trustee ad litem Joseph C. Razzano on Friday moved to disqualify Inos, citing that his wife, Debra, is a retiree who receives regular Fund benefits.
Razzano also asked the court to totally disqualify Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo from the case through an order of total recusal and not only a partial recusal.
Razzano earlier moved to disqualify Govendo, the assigned judge in the Fund lawsuit, as Govendo had applied on Sept. 19, 2012, to withdraw his employee Fund contributions, amounting to more than $50,000.
On Jan. 7, 2013, Govendo recused himself, but only from presiding over the Commonwealth Ports Authority's motion to have Razzano be held on contempt for allegedly failing to comply with Public Law 17-82.
Public Law 17-82 allows Fund members to withdraw the full amount of their contributions without separating from the government.
Following Govendo's recusal, Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja assigned the case to Inos.
Razzano, through counsels Daniel J. Berman and Braddock J Huesman, wants a disinterested, neutral judge or justice from Guam or any other U.S. jurisdiction to be temporarily designated to decide the merits that remain in the case and proceedings.
On the partial recusal issue, Razzano said the statute requires the judge in question to remove himself from the entire legal action, not just a portion of it.
The Fund filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in 2006 against Fitial, the CNMI government, and co-defendants over the government's failure to remit required payments to the Fund.
In 2009, Govendo ruled that the government owes the Fund $282 million in damages and that the law suspending government contributions to the Fund is unconstitutional.