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Friday, April 25, 2014

CNMI, Jorgensen, Woodruff have until today to file papers to OK settlements

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood gave the CNMI government and Betty Johnson’s counsels, Bruce Jorgensen and Stephen Woodruff, until today to file agreed motions to approve the settlements they’ve reached in the two lawyers’ petitions for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Sources said the amount involved in the settlements is to be kept confidential until the CNMI, Jorgensen, and Woodruff file their stipulated motions today.

In an order yesterday, Tydingco-Gatewood said the court held on Wednesday two teleconferences with the parties in Johnson’s class action to discuss the status of their settlement negotiations with regard to the petitions for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Tydingco-Gatewood said the CNMI government advised her that it had reached settlements with both Jorgensen and Woodruff, but did not reach a settlement with Johnson’s Hawaii-based counsel Bronster Hoshibata law firm or Johnson’s other counsel, Timothy Lord.

Accordingly, the judge said oppositions/objections to the stipulated motions to approve the settlements between the CNMI and Jorgensen and Woodruff shall be filed by Feb. 19, 2014.

Replies to such oppositions/objections shall be filed no later than Feb. 24, 2014.

Tydingco-Gatewood said she will hold a hearing on the stipulated motions to approve on March 4, 2014, immediately following the presentation of the Settlement Fund Trustee Joyce C.H. Tang’s report on the status of the settlement fund.

With respect to Bronster Hoshibata’s petition, the judge will hold an evidentiary hearing on Monday at 8:30am. The hearing will be vacated if a settlement agreement is reached prior to the hearing and a stipulated motion to approve such a settlement will be heard on March 4.

Tydingco-Gatewood set the evidentiary hearing on Lord’s petition for March 4 at 9am.

Bronster Hoshibata is demanding $17.5 million, while Lord’s initial demand was either $3.6 million or $5.9 million. Woodruff’s is seeking $2.9 million.

Last week, Jorgensen filed a “unified statement” in support of his fee petition, saying he is amenable to a 7 percent reduction of hours and fees, lowering his total billable hours to 3,678.7 hours and total fees to $1,195,580.10. Jorgensen’s initial request was at least $18.6 million.

Under the settlement agreement, the CNMI government will shoulder the attorneys’ fees and costs of Johnson’s counsels upon the court’s approval.

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