2 other Inos appointees confirmed
After the Senate confirmed his nomination yesterday afternoon by a vote of 8-0, Gilbert J. Birnbrich will take his oath of office today as the CNMI’s last appointed attorney general until the first elected AG is sworn into office in early January.
Senators confirmed Birnbrich’s nomination within an hour after the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations held a public hearing on his appointment.
All attorneys and other individuals who testified at the hearing supported Birnbrich’s appointment and urged senators to grant their advice and consent.
“It’s an honor to have the distinguished senators, all of them, vote to approve me as attorney general. Like I said in my statement to the committee, it’s a position of great responsibility and trust. I take it very seriously and I plan on fulfilling that trust to the maximum of my abilities even for the short term,” Birnbrich told Saipan Tribune moments after senators confirmed his nomination.
Birnbrich, who attended law school at the University of Toledo College of Law graduating cum laude, told senators that his overarching goal is to turn over a functioning, fully-staffed office to the elected AG.
He said he will also be assisting the Commonwealth Election Commission in running a clear and fair election.
Those who testified in support of his nomination spoke of Birnbrich’s “integrity,” “intelligence” and “dedication,” among other things.
Birnbrich, however, addressed some matters upfront during the public hearing, particularly on advising the Department of Public Lands not to disburse $800,000 in Managaha landing fees to pay land compensation for some 200 Saipan landowners.
While acknowledging that land compensation is long overdue, he reiterated that Saipan Local Law 18-19, which requires the payments, is “unconstitutional.”
“There is a misapprehension among some that the attorney general must defend all laws passed by the Legislature. That is incorrect. I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States and of the CNMI. It is my belief that SLL 18-19 is unconstitutional because it infringes upon the constitutionally required functions of MPLT [Marianas Public Land Trust] to invest the revenues generated from the management and disposition of public lands for the benefit of persons of Northern Marianas descent,” he said.
Birnbrich added that the issue of constitutionality of whether the Legislature may appropriate the Managaha landing fees has been lingering for 15 years.
“I did not give my advice lightly,” he told senators.
He added that he consulted with Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Department of Public Lands Secretary Pete A. Tenorio and they believe a certified question to the Supreme Court is the appropriate method.
“It is the quickest, most efficient and least adversarial method to resolve this issue once and for all,” he added.
As of yesterday, no such certified question has been submitted to the court.
Birnbrich will be AG for barely three months, from now to early January when the person that voters will elect on Nov. 4 takes his oath of office as the CNMI’s first elected attorney general.
In an interview, Birnbrich said when the elected AG takes oath, he would be “very open to being with the Office of the Attorney General in some capacity” but he pointed out that it would be totally up to the elected AG.
“If he doesn’t want me or he wants someone else to replace me, then that’s his will and I will respect his decision,” he said.
Regardless, he said he will be staying in the CNMI. He has been in the CNMI since 2003, when he started working as a law clerk for U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Alex Munson. Prior to his confirmation as AG, Birnbrich was serving as deputy attorney general and acting attorney general.
He also has been actively involved in the community, including as a member of the paddling federation, a member of the Marianas Interscholastic Sports Organization and director for the Northern Marianas Sports Association.
The governor will administer the oath of office to Birnbrich at 9am today on Capital Hill, acting press secretary Ivan Blanco said.
Senators also confirmed two of the governor’s three appointees to the Healthcare Professional Licensing Board: re-appointee Theodore R. Parker and Dr. Tiffany Lynn Willis.
The Senate, however, deferred action on the re-appointment of Dr. Alan S. Markoff to serve on the Healthcare Professional Licensing Board, following concerns about the physician that former representative Stanley Torres raised, among other things..