CDA asks for more time to respond to defamation suit

Scoggins

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The Commonwealth Development Authority has again asked the federal court for more time to respond to a defamation lawsuit filed by the wife of Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja against Bank of Hawaii.

CDA counsel Mark Scoggins said that, as previously explained, Charity Hodson and her law office will be taking over as CDA counsel in this matter due to a conflict for his law office.

In CDA’s motion to extend time for the third time filed last Monday, Scoggins said they understand that the U.S. District Court for the NMI may have concerns about the delay. However, Scoggins said, Hodson’s contract for CDA only completed the procurement routing process last Monday.

“This process has been entirely outside the control of CDA, the Scoggins Law Office, and the Law Office of Charity Hodson,” he said.

He said CDA and its counsel have worked to get this issue resolved so the case can move forward.

Scoggins said Hodson will need time to come up to speed on this matter, and so one additional week is being asked. This would make CDA’s response to the complaint in this matter due today, Dec. 3.

The court previously okayed CDA’s two requests for more time to respond. CDA’s deadline for a response was last Monday.

Scoggins cited that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that when prior to the expiration of the time by which an act must be done, the court may grant a request for postponement “for good cause.”

He said they have made attempts to contact the lawyer for Frances DLG. Naraja and for the Bank of Hawaii, but have not gotten a response as of the filing.

Scoggins said both attorneys have, however, been understanding and accommodating in the past and they do not believe the other parties will be prejudiced by one final delay.

Hodson filed on Monday a notice informing the court that she has substituted for Scoggins as counsel for CDA in this case.

Frances Naraja is suing BOH for allegedly refusing to honor her eight cashier’s checks in the total amount of $290,000 that she had purchased in 2016, but then telling all the other banks on Saipan that she had improperly secured the cashier’s checks.

Aside from defamation, Frances Naraja, through counsel William M. Fitzgerald, is also suing BOH for allegedly dishonoring the cashier’s check and conversion.

Frances Naraja asked the Superior Court to order for the return of $290,000, represented by the cashier’s checks, with prejudgment interest from the date of their dishonor. She also sought for payment of damages.

She filed the lawsuit in the local court last July 13. But last Aug. 17, BOH, through counsel Sean Frink, filed a notice for the removal of the lawsuit to the District Court.

BOH then filed an answer to Mrs. Naraja’s complaint. The bank also filed a counterclaim against Mrs. Naraja and third-party claims against Gloria DLG Sablan, CDA, and the Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero Family Trust.

Sablan is Mrs. Naraja’s sister.

According to Frink in the counterclaims and third-party claims, BOH simply seeks to join all of the potentially interested parties in one action so that their rights and responsibilities to the $290,000 can be determined.

Frink said Joaquin Deleon Guerrero and his wife declared bankruptcy, claiming that the true owner of the $290,000 is and was the Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero Family Trust.

He said Joaquin Deleon Guerrero has made similar claims in the Superior Court proceedings in which the CDA was pursuing his (Joaquin) assets in order to enforce a $400,000-plus judgment.

Frink said it was in these same actions that the CDA caused the Superior Court to issue writs that directed that the $290,000 be deposited with the Superior Court.

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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