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Monday, April 21, 2014

Update sought on status of settlement fund

The federal court has ordered Guam-based Civille & Tang law firm, through its principal representative, attorney Joyce C. H. Tang, to give an update on the status of the settlement fund that was created under the settlement agreement in Betty Johnson’s class action.

In an order Wednesday, U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood directed Tang to make her presentation in court on Monday, Jan. 13, at 9am.

The court appointed Tang as settlement fund trustee last September. As trustee, Tang is vested with all the powers of a federal receiver.

Tang shall serve as trustee for as long as necessary to implement the settlement agreement, or until she asks to be relieved and the request is approved by the court.

At the Jan. 13 hearing, Tydingco-Gatewood said the court will also hear the CNMI government’s report on its compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement.

In a report submitted Monday in court, government lawyer Reena J. Patel said the CNMI government has complied with the terms of the settlement agreement, including the timely payment of $3.75 million in annual contributions for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014.

The other agenda at the Jan. 13 hearing will be the petitions for attorneys’ fees and costs filed by different lawyers who served as counsels for Johnson.

Tydingco-Gatewood said the court will hear arguments on the petitions filed by the Hawaii-based Bronster Hoshibata law firm, Bruce Jorgensen, Stephen Woodruff, and Timothy Lord.

Tydingco-Gatewood ordered Bronster Hoshibata to explain the law firm’s other request for reimbursement for a tax on fees totaling $48,349.88 and a tax on costs in the amount of $37.62.

Tydingco-Gatewood said the law firm’s request does not indicate how these taxes were computed and also does not provide any legal authority to justify reimbursement of such taxes.

The CNMI government, through the Office of the Attorney General, has strongly opposed the requests for attorneys’ fees and costs filed by Johnson’s many lawyers, describing them as “excessive, outrageous, and contained irregularities.”

In his first petition, Jorgensen is demanding $18.6 million, $29 million or $38.9 million; Bronster Hoshibata is seeking $17.5 million; Lord is asking for either $3.6 million or $5.9 million; and Woodruff asked first for $1.01 million and now $2.9 million.

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