U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood has approved the payment of $86,469.11 in legal fees and expenses for the NMI Retirement Fund's two other lawyers for the months of October through December 2012.
In an order issued Thursday, Tydingco-Gatewood said she finds the grand total of $86,469.11 to be reasonable for the services of Daniel J. Berman and Braddock Huesman.
Berman's legal fees are $6,687; $11,902.50; and $24,500 for the months of October, November, and December 2012, respectively. He also sought payment of $1.90 and $810.21 as expenses for November and December respectively.
Huesman's legal fees are $14,418; $14,500; and $12,398 for the months of October, November, and December, respectively. He also asked for payment of $169 as expenses for December.
The payment of $86,469.11 is separate from the $17,783 and $12,507.06 in legal fees and expenses that the Fund's trustee ad litem, Law Offices of Civille & Tang and its representative Joseph C. Razzano, is seeking for the months of November and December 2012.
For the months of September and October 2012, Razzano and the Tang law firm were paid $60,949.83.
In her order Thursday, Tydingco-Gatewood directed acting Fund director Lilian Pangelinan to immediately remit $86,469.11 from the Fund's 2012 budget to the Fund's trustee ad litem as payment for the services of Berman and Huesman.
The judge reiterated her earlier position that the NMI government is ultimately responsible for reimbursing the Fund for these funds.
Tydingco-Gatewood noted that the Fund's trustee ad litem's request for compensation for the month of November 2012 was emailed to the court and not filed in Betty Johnson's court action.
She disclosed that during this time frame, the trustee ad litem's legal counsels successfully negotiated and executed renewal agreements for health and life insurance for government employees and retirees, and realized a savings of approximately $5.1 million for the CNMI government, employees, and retirees.
Tydingco-Gatewood added that the legal counsels have expended a great deal of time managing and advancing the many litigation matters that involve the Fund.
The Fund is involved in 14 separate lawsuits.
Tydingco-Gatewood said she recognizes that the Johnson court action has generated widespread interest among the people of the CNMI.
“In the interest of public transparency, the invoices of legal counsel should be made available to the public,” she said.
However, the judge noted, the court must balance the public's interests with the need to preserve the confidential communications between attorney and client and prevent disclosure of attorney work product and litigation strategy.
Accordingly, Tydingco-Gatewood said, the trustee ad litem is directed to review the invoices and make appropriate redactions as necessary.
The redacted invoices, she said, shall be filed by the trustee ad litem no later than 30 days later.