Attorney Stephen C. Woodruff dodged a civil contempt citation after complying with U. S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s order to file his reports relating to the progress of his disciplinary matter in CNMI courts.
Manglona made the ruling after a show-cause hearing on Friday.
Three days before, Manglona directed Woodruff to appear in court to explain why he should not be held in civil contempt and fined for each day of noncompliance with her order.
The judge noted that she ordered Woodruff on Aug. 8, 2013, to notify the court, in writing, within the last five days of each month, of the progress of his disciplinary matter in CNMI courts.
In her show-cause order, Manglona said a review of the docket shows that Woodruff failed to update the court in August and September on the progress on his CNMI disciplinary matter.
In his reply to the show-cause order, Woodruff said no substantive action took place in either the CNMI Supreme Court case or the Superior Court matter during the month of August 2013. He said there was no progress in August for which he would have a duty to notify the federal court.
For the month of September, the lawyer said the only action was on Sept. 19 when Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued an order directing him to appear on Sept. 27, 2013, to explain why the court should not find him in contempt and punished for willfully disobeying his order of disbarment dated June 7, 2013.
Woodruff said the scheduled hearing conflicted with a filing deadline for him in Betty Johnson’s class action before Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood and would have disrupted his preparation for the final fairness hearing in that case on Sept. 30, 2013.
At the Sept. 27 order to show-cause hearing, Woodruff said he reiterated his standing position that Wiseman needs to recuse himself from the matter, accusing the judge of bias and prejudice against him. He said Wiseman denied his motion to recuse.
Woodruff said he argued, among things, that Wiseman lacked jurisdiction to move forward with contempt proceedings, on account of his appeal.
Woodruff asked the federal court that his tardy performance in submitting his reports to the court be excused.
Woodruff told Saipan Tribune earlier that he will be correcting his default by filing reports in federal court in response to the court’s show-cause order.
Woodruff said he inadvertently failed to file the reports that Manglona had included in her stay order, principally because there had been no material developments and that his attention was on other matters.