‘Article 12 issue on renewal of land lease still unanswered’


Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho ruled yesterday that, since the parties have terminated the proposed new lease agreement over parcels of land in western Garapan where Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa’s restaurants are located, the court can no longer decide on the issue of Article 12 and renewal of land leases.

That means the amicus curiae briefs that the court had earlier requested are no longer needed in this case, Camacho said, since the executor of the estate of the affected land has withdrawn his motion to approve the proposed new land lease for another 55 years.

“The issue of Article 12 and renewal of land leases by corporations remains unanswered at this time,” said the judge in a two-page order.

Article 12 of the NMI Constitution restricts long-term interest in real property to persons of NMI descent.

Amicus curiae (friend of the court) refers to a brief filed in court by an entity or an individual who is not a party to a case. It offers information, expertise, or insight that is relevant to the issues in a case.

In a status conference last Monday, Camacho said that James Stump had said that his clients, Triple J Saipan Inc. and Triple J chair and chief executive officer Robert H. Jones, do not wish to answer the public policy question of Article 12 and the renewal of land leases, as well as to avoid embarrassment and being in the newspapers.

Camacho said that, according to Stump, they have terminated the proposed lease agreement and therefore, the motion to approve the lease is no longer necessary.

The judge said Stump also informed the court that he does not think that government and business entities are lawyers and should not be commenting on Article 12.

Camacho also said that lawyer Vincent DLG Torres had stated that his client, Probio M. Cabrera estate executor Probio DLC Cabrera Jr., also wants to avoid embarrassment in the newspaper and has terminated the proposed lease agreement, and therefore the motion to approve the lease is no longer necessary.

In a separate order yesterday, Camacho vacated the hearing that was set for Sept. 12, 2019. That hearing was supposed to address the parties’ stipulation to withdraw the motion to approve the proposed lease agreement.

Last Wednesday, July 17, Camacho invited Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, some government agencies, the Hotel Association of the NMI, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce to submit amicus curiae briefs on issues involving Article 12 and the renewal of land leases.

The judge issued the invitations in connection with the request of Probio DLC Cabrera Jr. for the court to approve the proposed new land lease with Triple J Saipan Inc.

The briefs were supposed to respond to the question: Does Article 12 prohibit a corporation or its subsidiaries that took over the lease from entering into a new lease if entering into a new lease would give the lessor a long-term interest in the real property for more than the original 55 years?

Triple J Saipan Inc. and the Cabrera estate signed the proposed lease agreement last May 7 and 22, respectively. Last Thursday, the parties agreed to terminate the proposed lease deal.

In Triple J’s support of Cabrera’s motion to approve the lease filed last Tuesday, July 16, Stump argued that Article 12 restrictions are inapplicable in this case as the proposed lease does not take effect until the present lease expires and that the proposed lease is with parties that have no common ownership interests.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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