Atalig, Castro oppose Mafnas’ motion for TRO, preliminary injunction


David Atalig and William Castro

Finance Secretary David Atalig and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ chief of staff, William Castro, are opposing the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction being sought by Division of Customs director Jose Mafnas, saying Mafnas is not likely to succeed on the merits of the case.

According to the opposition filed by assistant attorney general Leslie Healer on behalf of the two, Mafnas should not be granted a TRO and preliminary injunction because he has not carried his burden for a preliminary injunction.

“He has not made even a threshold showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits, and he has not shown that irreparable harm is likely without an injunction, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, or that an injunction is in the public interest. A preliminary injunction would be inappropriate at this juncture,” she said.

Healer argues that Mafnas is not entitled to the relief he is seeking because he simply has made no showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits of the alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

“Plaintiff’s contention that his constitutional rights of due process and freedom of speech and assembly were violated is not supported by the evidence. The evidence instead shows that plaintiff received a memorandum on July 21, 2022, informing him of a reassignment. DOF did not deprive plaintiff of due process, because DOF followed proper procedures to effectuate that reassignment. In addition, DOF did not deprive plaintiff of his right to freedom of speech because there is no evidence that plaintiff’s reassignment was politically motivated,” she said.

“In addition, plaintiff has provided no evidence that the reassignment will cause him irreparable harm, as the reassignment would retain plaintiff in the same salary and civil service status as his prior position. Plaintiff has not only failed to show that he warrants an extraordinary remedy at the outset of this litigation, but he waived any due process that he could have received through the Personnel Service System Rules and Regulations. Additionally, the public interest factor and balance of equities is firmly in the Commonwealth’s favor. The people of the Commonwealth have an interest in the effective enforcement of validly enacted laws,” Healer said.

Healer further argued that Mafnas has no likelihood of success on the merits because his claims are not “ripe,” meaning Mafnas has not exhausted all administrative remedies available to him before pursuing a lawsuit.

“Plaintiff has failed to meet the elements for First Amendment claims; plaintiff has failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him; and plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because the reassignment was consistent with Commonwealth law,” the lawyer said.

The defense attorney went on to say that Mafnas will not suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted, as opposed to the defendants who will suffer significant harm in the face of a TRO or injunction as it will hinder the Commonwealth’s ability to enforce properly enacted laws pursuant to its police powers and deprive the Commonwealth of the expertise necessary for the new division under the Department of Commerce.

“The public interest also falls decidedly against granting a temporary injunction because the public has an interest in the enforcement of Commonwealth laws, and in allowing individuals that either willfully or negligently avoid long established laws to paralyze the government by filing lawsuits. The public interest is squarely in favor of ensuring that individuals that have been afforded due process to take responsibility for their conduct and ensuring that proper procedures are followed,” she said.

According to court documents, Mafnas filed his lawsuit against the Department of Finance, its secretary, and Castro last July 28. Aside from the lawsuit, Mafnas also filed a motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction to essentially prohibit Atalig or Castro from reassigning him pending judgment.

On Aug. 2, 2022, the court granted Mafnas’ motion for TRO effective through Aug. 16.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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