Rep. Janet Maratita and Jesus I. Taisague are fighting for the rule of law and their constitutional rights, according to their lawyer, Ramon K. Quichocho, to explain why they want to intervene in Betty Johnson’s class action.
As this developed, many interested parties and retirees are expected to attend the final fairness hearing at the U.S. District Court for the NMI today, Monday, at 9am.
Designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood is expected to grant final approval of Johnson’s settlement agreement at the hearing. She will also take up the petitions for attorneys’ fees and court costs by Johnson’s lawyers. These lawyers want to be paid from a minimum of over $40 million to a maximum of $60 million.
In Maratita’s and Taisague’s motion, Quichocho said his clients want to protect and defend the CNMI Constitution and laws and their rights.
Quichocho said that Maratita and Taisague want the Johnson class to continue to receive 100 percent of their benefits under the CNMI retirement system, not the Johnson settlement fund which would defer up to 25 percent of benefits.
“Movants want the CNMI to constitutionally appropriate funds for the CNMI retirement system, not the Betty Johnson settlement fund,” he said.
Johnson, the CNMI government, and the NMI Retirement Fund, through their respective lawyers, are opposed to Maratita’s and Taisague’s request to intervene in the case, saying the lawmaker’s motion “lacks coherent legal foundation, [is] untimely, and frivolous.”
But in their reply, Quichocho said that Maratita and Taisague acted diligently in filing their motion to lift the court’s stay order that stopped all proceedings except final approval of Johnson’s settlement agreement.
Quichocho said the deadline to “opt-out” was Sept. 20, 2013, and that Taisague timely opted out of the settlement class.
That day, Sept. 20, the lawyer said, movants learned that there was not enough “opt-outs” to cancel the settlement agreement, and immediately filed a notice of appearance and notice of intent to file a motion to intervene.
Quichocho said that since the deadline to opt-out was Sept. 20, there was no way for his clients to know that the settlement agreement will proceed to the final fairness hearing today, Monday, until the date to opt out expired and less than 10 percent opted out.
He said because the settlement agreement seeks to bind future CNMI Legislatures to an “executive appropriation” of millions of dollars for an indefinite time, it is a clear violation of the NMI Constitution.
Quichocho said that Maratita and Taisague have standing to intervene as part owners of the taxpayers’ fund and the Fund assets.