The Superior Court granted Friday 80-year-old Luisa Borja Quitugua's request for the court to order banks to release funds belonging to the CNMI government so that she could be paid $77,137 plus interest for her land compensation claim.
The Inos administration, however, has vowed to challenge Associate Judge David A. Wiseman's writ of execution against government funds and accounts.
In an email to Saipan Tribune on Saturday, press secretary Angel A. Demapan stated that as a result of Wiseman's order, the Department of Finance is being prevented from using any and all government funds within its control.
Demapan said the Inos administration, through the Office of the Attorney General, plans to “vigorously litigate against this order” because courts should not be allowed to freeze Capital Improvement Projects monies and other federal funds as well as trust funds for a local matter that has nothing to do with federal and trust monies.
Demapan said that Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider “will do all that they can within their authority to prevent this senseless and ill-timed action from the impending harm to our community.”
“In addition, all efforts will be made to prevent a halt to the economic progress that has been made to move the CNMI toward economic recovery and prosperity,” Demapan added.
For 28 years now, Quitugua has been seeking compensation from the government for the taking of her land in As Teo. A public road was built on her property.
In 2005, the Superior Court entered a final judgment granting Quitugua $77,137 plus applicable interest. It took the government seven years or until November 2012 to pay Quitugua just $10,000.
On Jan. 31, 2012, Quitugua asked the court for a writ of execution, seeking from the government all funds it has in banks in the CNMI to satisfy the full amount.
In his order issued Friday, Wiseman said the judgment amount remains outstanding and that the CNMI government remains liable to Quitugua for the total amount plus interest.
Wiseman said the court would overstep its constitutional authority if it were to order the Legislature to appropriate funds for a certain purpose, or to compel government payments without appropriation.
In Quitugua's case, Wiseman said, the Legislature, in the form of Public Law 13-17, appropriated funds for the purpose of discharging outstanding land compensation claims against the Commonwealth, explicitly stating that the purpose of the act is to compensate such claims.
P.L. 13-17 authorizes the Marianas Public Land Authority, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Development Authority, to borrow up to $40 million to settle and discharge outstanding land compensation claims against the Commonwealth.
Because P.L. 13-17 appropriated funds for this purpose, Wiseman said the court can now compel government payments.
“It is based on this authority that the court hereby grants Luisa B. Quitugua's request for a writ of execution,” the judge said.
Wiseman ordered the Bank of Guam, Bank of Hawaii, and First Hawaiian Bank to promptly release and deliver to Quitugua's lawyer, F. Matthew Smith's law office, the funds they are holding that belong to the CNMI government.
Wiseman said any funds received by Quitugua shall be held in Smith's trust account and shall not be disbursed without a court order.
“A report shall be made to the court within 48 hours of obtaining any funds under this writ. Upon receiving such report, the court shall then determine the amount, including applicable interest, due to [Quitugua],” the judge said.