The federal court has dismissed four causes of action against a police officer and a former police officer in connection with a police brutality lawsuit filed by a motorist who is reportedly now paralyzed from the neck down.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona dismissed Alejandro L. Norita's first and second causes of action-assault and battery and emotional distress-against police officer Jerome Reyes and former police officer Regino Celis.
Manglona acknowledged the CNMI government's notice of substituting itself for Reyes and Celis and ordered that the government is substituted for the two on the first and second causes of action.
The judge also dismissed in its entirety Norita's fourth cause of action-violation of civil rights-against Reyes and Celis.
Norita's sixth cause of action-negligence-was dismissed as to Reyes and Celis only. The CNMI government and unnamed defendants were also sued under this cause of action.
Manglona dismissed the fifth cause of action-violation of civil rights under the Commonwealth Constitution-and the sixth cause of action-negligence-against the CNMI government.
The CNMI government moved to dismiss the fifth and sixth causes of action with respect to the government for failure to state a claim. Norita conceded that dismissal is proper.
This means that the only remaining defendants in the fifth and sixth causes of action are the unnamed defendants. The judge, however, granted Norita's request to allow him to amend these two causes of action.
Manglona did not dismiss the plaintiff's third cause of action: claims for violating his civil rights under the U.S. Constitution against Reyes and Celis.
In their motion to dismiss, Reyes and Celis argued that the civil rights claim under the U.S. Constitution should be dismissed because they have qualified immunity.
Manglona said taking the complaint as true and construing it in the light most favorable to Norita, the complaint demonstrates a plausible claim that Reyes and Celis do not have qualified immunity.
“Accordingly, dismissal is not proper,” said the judge, referring to third cause of action-claims for violating Norita's civil rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Norita, though counsel David G. Banes, filed the lawsuit in June 2012, seeking at least $100,000 in damages.
According to the complaint, on June 1, 2010 between 8pm to 9pm, Norita was driving a 1993 Toyota Corolla by the Northern Marianas College in As Terlaje when a police car suddenly pursued him. Banes said that Norita did not stop at that location because it was dark there.
Banes said Norita wanted to stop at his residence in San Jose so he continually signaled the police officer to follow him by pointing forward.
Reyes and Celis allegedly used excessive force in arresting Norita after his car crashed on the fence of Oleai Elementary School.
The Office of the Attorney General stated that it is clear from the facts alleged and from the police report that Reyes and Celis not only had probable cause to arrest Norita but were authorized to remove him from his vehicle.