Court-appointed counsel for Atalig

Banes is now court- appointed counsel for Rota mayor

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona determined yesterday that Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig is eligible for court-appointed counsel.

Manglona also granted David George Banes’ motion to withdraw as private counsel for Atalig their law firm O’Connor Berman Horey & Banes.

According to the minutes of the hearing, citing the complexity of this case and discovery, Manglona granted Atalig’s request for a court-appointed counsel and appointed Banes as court-appointed counsel for the mayor.

Banes accepted the appointment.

At the hearing, Banes provided the court additional information regarding Atalig and in support of his motion to withdraw as counsel.

Banes told the court that their law firm’s motion to withdraw as private counsel for Atalig in the Superior Court case will be heard today, Thursday.

Manglona advised Atalig that he may have to reimburse the attorney’s fees to the court, should there be information that he has the financial means to do so.

Atalig appeared at the hearing telephonically.

Manglona told Atalig that if his divorce decree is final and if they find that there are any assets, then he may be ordered to reimburse attorney’s fees to the court.

Manglona also granted Banes’ request for a private investigator to assist him with this case.

Banes informed the court regarding the status of trying to locate and interview witnesses, as well as the need for a private investigator.

Banes expressed the need to possibly continue the trial date.

Assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley stated that the U.S. government will not object to the continuance of the trial.

Banes said regarding the issue of continuance of the trial, he will meet and confer with Steven Pixley, who is counsel for Atalig’s girlfriend, Evelyn M. Atalig.

Last September, Manglona determined that Atalig is not eligible for a court-appointed counsel. This prompted the mayor to hire the O’Connor law firm to represent him.

Last December, Atalig, through counsel, informed the court that he may now be eligible for court-appointed counsel. He then requested for a court-appointed counsel and filed under seal some documents about his financial status.

Last Monday, Banes asked the court to allow their law firm to withdraw as counsel for Atalig. He disclosed that the mayor currently owes a substantial amount in unpaid legal fees to their law firm, which is representing him in separate criminal cases pending in federal and local courts.

In federal court case, mayor Atalig and Evelyn Atalig are indicted with five corruption charges for arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Republic of Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.

In the Superior Court matter, the Office of the Attorney General filed criminal charges against Atalig and seven other Rota municipal officials in connection with a political rally in Guam.

The Ataligs pleaded not guilty of all charges.

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
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