Amended suit by ex-CUC board chair Guerrero dismissed

The federal court dismissed Friday the amended lawsuit filed by former Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board chair Francisco Q. Guerrero against seven current and former Department of Corrections officials and employees over the alleged injuries he suffered when an inmate beat him up inside DOC.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ruled that Guerrero, who is also an inmate, has failed to state a claim against the seven defendants—former DOC commissioner Vince Attao, pretrial director Jose K. Pangelinan, captain Pius Yaroitemal, shift supervisor Romualdo Teregeyo Jr., and Professional Standard Unit officers Fred Billy, Marvin Seman, and Leanna P. Quitugua.

Manglona ruled that Guerrero has not stated a claim for failure to train or supervise against Attao, Pangelinan, Yaroitemal, or Teregeyo.

With respect to defendants Billy, Seman, and Quitugua, the judge said Guerrero does not allege any facts regarding an ongoing violation that these three were aware of and knowingly failed to respond to.

Manglona said the fact that these three officers were not receptive to Guerrero’s requests and have not responded to his complaint is not enough to state a claim for violations of his 8th and 14th Amendment rights for the injuries he sustained at the hands of another inmate.

Manglona ruled that Guerrero has failed to state a plausible claim against Billy, Seman, and Quitugua.

The judge gave Guerrero until Aug. 2, 2019, to correct the deficiencies in his complaint.

Manglona added that Guerrero has failed to establish a threat of actual and imminent injury necessary for an injunctive relief that he sought in his first amended complaint.

The judge said Guerrero’s first amended complaint does not contain any allegation of a threat of repeated injury that is actual or imminent.

Therefore, Manglona said, Guerrero has not demonstrated that he has standing to bring a claim for injunctive relief.

“That is not to say that Guerrero lacks standing completely,” said Manglona, adding that Guerrero needs to show a future threat of injury to sue for damages, as he has done against all defendants in their personal capacities.

Manglona said if he chooses to file a second amended complaint, Guerrero must allege sufficient factual content to state a claim.

If Guerrero does not file a second amended complaint, the court will order the U.S. Marshal to serve the first amended complaint on the seven defendants only—DOC officers Joaquin Sablan, Manuela Guerrero, Rachel Rebuenog, Jose Castro, Laena Cabrera, Eloy Dela Cruz, and Keith Lizama.

Guerrero previously stated a claim for failure to protect against Sablan, Manuela Guerrero, Rebuenog, Castro, Cabrera, and Dela Cruz.

Manglona also previously ruled that Guerrero’s allegations are sufficient to plausibly state a claim that Lizama was aware of the risk that another inmate might violently harm him and acted with deliberate indifference to his safety by leaving his post.

Lizama was allegedly the officer assigned to Guerrero’s pod on the day when inmate John Kileleman attacked Guerrero on Jan. 14, 2019.

Guerrero is serving a six-year prison term for sexual abuse of a minor.

Guerrero alleged that Kileleman, who is mentally ill, beat him up when he tried to pacify him from beating another inmate last Jan. 14.

In April 2019, Guerrero, without a lawyer, filed his original complaint against 14 DOC officials and Kileleman. Manglona said she interprets plaintiff’s claims against these defendants in three categories: failure to protect, failure to supervise, and failure to investigate.

Manglona had dismissed without prejudice Guerrero’s claim against Kileleman and against seven defendants.

Dismissal without prejudice means Guerrero may refile the claim against Kileleman and the seven defendants.

Guerrero then filed his first amended complaint against the seven defendants, this time not including Kileleman.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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