The CNMI Supreme Court has suspended former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham from the practice of law in the Commonwealth for his conviction on public corruption charges last year.
The suspension order was issued last April, but Saipan Tribune got the copy only yesterday. The order was signed by Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro and Associate Justices John A. Manglona and Perry B. Inos.
According to the justices, the clerk of the Superior Court transmitted to them a certified copy of the judgment of conviction and order on Feb. 20, 2014, convicting Buckingham of various criminal offenses, including theft of services.
The justices cited Rule 15(a) of the NMI Rules of Attorney Discipline and Procedure, which states that the Supreme Court, after certification of the conviction by the clerk of the court, must suspend an attorney who has been convicted of a felony or a crime involving dishonesty or false statement.
Buckingham was previously suspended in 2013 for failing to pay his annual CNMI Bar Association membership dues.
On Feb. 19, 2014, Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo found the then-65-year-old Buckingham guilty of all public corruption charges except one and sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison, all suspended.
In imposing a no-prison term sentence, Govendo said he believes that jail sentence is not appropriate considering that, among other things, Buckingham is not a typical criminal that stole or embezzled a huge amount of money, or committed sexual abuse or violent crimes.
Govendo found Buckingham guilty of use of public supplies, time and personnel for campaign activities; use of the name of a government department or agency to campaign and/or express support for a candidate running for public office; misconduct in public office (related to campaign matter); conspiracy to commit theft of services (related to escort issue); misconduct in public office (pertaining to escort issue); conspiracy to commit theft service (related to use government counsels to represent him); and misconduct in public office (use of government counsels in his criminal case).
Govendo acquitted Buckingham of one count of failure to produce documents or information (pertaining to Office of the Public Auditor’s investigation into a sole-source contract project).
At the sentencing hearing, Govendo also ordered Buckingham to pay a $14,000 fine and placed him on unsupervised probation for three-and-a-half years.
Govendo prohibited the former attorney general from being employed by the CNMI government for 20 years.
Buckingham is the first former attorney general in the CNMI to stand trial in a criminal case.
The Office of the Public Auditor originally filed 12 criminal charges against Buckingham in connection with violation of election laws and illegal award of a sole-source contract, among others.
Govendo dismissed four charges, including those pertaining to the contract issue.