Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho ruled yesterday that the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. can sue the CNMI government for unpaid utility bills.
Camacho said the CNMI Legislature explicitly granted CUC the power to bring lawsuits and specifically mandated that CUC bill the government for utility services.
Camacho made the ruling in his order denying the CNMI government’s motion to dismiss CUC’s lawsuit against the government for lack of capacity.
In separate lawsuits filed in December, CUC, through counsel Michael White, also sued the Public School System and the CNMI government to collect on unpaid utility billings.
White said PSS and the CNMI government are indebted to CUC, for utility services in the principal sum of $5,936,931.55 and $1,241,137 respectively, together with pre-judgment interest.
The CNMI government, through assistant attorney general David Lochabay, moved to dismiss the lawsuit. He argued that CUC, as a government entity, lacks capacity to sue the CNMI government, CUC’s creator.
CUC, through White, argued that the Legislature designed CUC to be a separate, autonomous entity, with the power to recover the expenses of utility production from utility consumers, including the government.
In his ruling, Camacho said the express mandate of the Legislature in the Commonwealth Code shows that CUC has the capacity to bring this claim for non-payment of utilities.
Camacho said nothing in the Commonwealth Code or the executive orders cited by the Commonwealth indicates that the government is exempt from paying utility bills, or from a claim seeking to collect the fees owed by government consumers for utilities provided by CUC.