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Friday, April 18, 2014

Inos weighs options on Quichocho nomination
Inos heads to Alaska, Hofschneider back in CNMI

Prior to his trip to Alaska on official business, Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the administration is weighing its options on attorney Ramon “Ray” Quichocho’s nomination as Superior Court associate judge amid recent complaints and court judgment against him and the CNMI Bar Association’s dismal rating of his suitability for the post.

When asked whether the administration is considering recalling or withdrawing Quichocho’s nomination, Inos said “there are a lot of options” that include the nominee “bowing out” or the Senate “disposing of” it.

“Options including Mr. Quichocho himself, you know, bowing out or the Senate acting on it. But of course we submitted the appointment and it is our desire that it goes through the process,” Inos said in an interview at the launching ceremony for a multi-mission fire boat at the Smiling Cove Marina Friday afternoon.

Inos also said the administration will fully address the matter once Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider is back on island after an off-island trip for the settlement of a case in connection with the hospital’s reverse osmosis system.

Inos said Friday that Hofschneider was in Idaho and was expected to return over the weekend.

It was Hofschneider who nominated Quichocho. At the time, Inos was in Guam to meet with a key U.S. military official in the region.

It was not immediately known whether Inos and Hofschneider were able to discuss Quichocho’s nomination before the governor left the CNMI and after the lieutenant governor returned to the islands over the weekend.

Press secretary Angel Demapan confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday afternoon that the governor “is headed to Alaska to meet with Sen. Lisa Murkowski on CNMI issues and what kind of support she can push for in the Senate.”

“While in Alaska, Gov. Inos will also visit with the governor and lieutenant governor of Alaska,” Demapan added.

On Saturday, the governor attended both the Northern Marianas College graduation and the closing of the 2013 Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival.

Quichocho’s nomination requires the Senate’s advice and consent.

“That nomination is now before the Senate so the Senate will have to dispose of it,” Inos said Friday.

However, Inos confirmed that the administration has not submitted to the Senate yet all the required documents supporting Quichocho’s nomination. These include a police clearance, a copy of his résumé, statement of financial interests, drug test receipt, and drug test result.

The Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations historically waits for these documents before scheduling any public hearing on the nomination.

Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), EAGI Committee chairman, said they may hold a public hearing on Quichocho’s nomination this week.

Quichocho’s nomination has become the three-month-old Inos administration’s most controversial appointment so far, drawing both support and opposition from different sectors. Lawyers who have so far come out in support of him included those that Quichocho have represented or vice versa.

Quichocho was counsel for a taxpayers’ lawsuit against a sole-source, 25-year $190.8 million diesel power purchase agreement that became one of the bases for two impeachment resolutions against former governor Benigno R. Fitial. Quichocho was also among the few practicing attorneys that openly supported Fitial’s impeachment.

However, just days after Quichocho was nominated, Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo determined that Quichocho had induced a landowner to violate public policy by filing false documents with the Commonwealth Recorder’s Office.

In an order, Govendo said Quichocho’s conduct of inducing landowner Joaquin Q. Atalig to breach a land lease agreement was improper.

Days later, an expert witness retained in a racketeering lawsuit against Quichocho stated that Quichocho not only committed ethical transgressions but likely even criminal acts.

Benjamin M. Abrams, an assistant attorney general at the Guam Office of the Attorney General, said the facts strongly suggest that Quichocho took unfair and unethical advantage of a client, Jung Ja Kim, by sexually victimizing her while she was on depression medication, thwarting her recovery, in an act of moral turpitude, and violative of the American Bar Association’s Disciplinary Rules.

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