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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CNMI GOVT AGREES TO PAY ATTORNEY’S FEES, COSTS
Jorgensen, $800K; Woodruff, $185K

The CNMI government has agreed to pay Betty Johnson’s original counsel, Bruce Jorgensen, $800,000 in attorney’s fees and costs, and Johnson’s local counsel, Stephen C. Woodruff, $185,000. The payment is subject to federal court’s approval.

Assistant attorney general Reena J. Patel, on behalf of the CNMI government, and attorneys Jorgensen and Woodruff filed in federal court on Friday separate motions for approval of attorneys’ fees.

Patel and the lawyers stated that the agreement is a fair and proper settlement of Jorgensen’s and Woodruff’s fees.

They said the compromise was a result of extensive, good faith arm’s length negotiations initiated by the court, with the help of Hawaii chief bankruptcy judge Robert Faris, after the court approved the settlement of Johnson’s class action.

They said negotiations took place over a three-and-a-half-month period, mostly by telephone.

“The parties are in the process of finalizing the written agreement documenting this settlement, which shall be submitted to the court upon execution,” Patel and the two lawyers said.

Jorgensen’s initial request was at least $18.6 million, while Woodruff’s was $2.9 million.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood has given the CNMI government, Jorgensen, and Woodruff until Friday to file agreed motions to approve the settlements they reached on the two lawyers’ petitions for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Tydingco-Gatewood disclosed that the CNMI government advised her last Wednesday that it has 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.

The judge gave anyone who objects to the settlements between the CNMI and Jorgensen and Woodruff until Feb. 19, 2014, to submit their oppositions/objections. 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 Settlement Fund trustee Joyce C.H. Tang on the status of the settlement fund.

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

On Lord’s petition, Tydingco-Gatewood set the evidentiary hearing 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.

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