Attorney Ramon K. Quichocho and landowner Joaquin Q. Atalig have sued Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo for the latter’s comments that resulted in the CNMI Supreme Court publicly censuring and sanctioning him in 2010.
In a taxpayers’ complaint filed Tuesday, Quichocho and Atalig asked the Superior Court to require Govendo to return all wages and benefits he received for the acts that resulted in him being sanctioned by the CNMI Supreme Court for violating the Commonwealth Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Judicial Disciplinary Procedure.
Quichocho and Atalig argue that these wages and benefits are “unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable, and/or unjust.”
Quichocho represented himself in the lawsuit. Attorney Robert Myers Jr. served as counsel for Atalig.
The plaintiffs are also suing the CNMI government and the Department of Finance for illegal expenditure of public funds and breach of fiduciary duty.
The plaintiffs cited the High Court’s findings that Govendo “failed to follow the high standards of conduct required of a judge necessary to maintain the integrity and independence of the Judiciary” and whose “Castillo statement damaged the public’s faith in the Judiciary and failed to promote the public’s confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary.”
The Castillo statement refers to Govendo’s saying “adios muchacho” to Roger Castillo, a Filipino defendant in a domestic violence case. In that case, Govendo also told the defendant, among other things, that he is going to call the Office of the Attorney General so the OAG will file criminal charges against him and that he is going to make it his “personal journey” to make sure that Castillo leaves the CNMI.
Quichocho and Atalig said the Supreme Court held “that the Castillo statement was a public statement…and that Judge Govendo’s threats of prosecution and deportation created the appearance that he would seek to influence a future proceeding.”
The plaintiffs also cited the Supreme Court statement that “the statements made in the two adoption cases were racially insensitive and racially stereotyped all Filipinos as wanting to adopt all of their relatives in order to give them a better life in the Commonwealth.”
Quichocho and Atalig said the wages and benefits Govendo received during the time he was sanctioned “do not fit any of the definition of a public purpose,” because the Supreme Court found Govendo to have made “a combination of multiple statements with racially prejudicial overtones” and “a pattern of racial insensitivity.”
Quichocho and Atalig pointed out that Govendo did not pay back any wages or benefits that he gained during the times he was sanctioned for.
“On information and belief, defendants CNMI and DOF did not collect the ill-gotten gains,” the plaintiffs said.
The CNMI Supreme Court publicly censured Govendo in December 2010 and ordered him to complete an educational program on judicial ethics at his own expense, for the comments he made in three different court hearings.
In May 2013, Govendo issued a ruling that found Quichocho to have induced landowner Atalig to violate public policy by filing false documents with the Commonwealth Recorder’s Office.
When the ruling was issued, Quichocho had just been nominated to become a judge.
In June 2013, Gov. Eloy S. Inos withdrew the administration’s nomination of Quichocho to serve as associate judge.