Davis asks judge to decide his lawsuit on its merits

John H. Davis Jr. asked the federal court yesterday to reconsider its decision to dismiss his lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction and instead decide the case on the merits.

Davis’ lawsuit seeks to stop the Commonwealth Election Commission from denying U.S. citizens who are not of Northern Marianas descent the right to vote on any issue regarding Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution or on any other issues.

Article 12 limits land ownership in the CNMI only to those of NMI descent.

Davis, through counsel Jeanne H. Rayphand, filed the motion requesting U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona to amend her judgment of June 26, 2012.

Rayphand said that Manglona should reconsider her decision to “correct clear legal error and prevent manifest injustice.” She said the court has a duty and obligation to protect the fundamental rights of all U.S. citizens.

The lawyer said the right to vote is a fundamental right in the CNMI. “This court should protect the right of every United States citizen to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the Commonwealth,” she said.

In her decision on June 26, Manglona had said that the dismissal of the lawsuit is without prejudice as she has not reached the merits of the case yet. Dismissal without prejudice is when a case is dismissed but the plaintiff is allowed to re-file a new suit on the same claim in the future.

In her ruling, Manglona said that Davis’ injury is not actual because it does not occur until he is denied the right to vote or his ballot is disallowed. At the same time, the judge said that Davis’ injury is not imminent because no petition or initiative relating to Article 12 is on the November 2012 ballot.

In Davis’ motion to alter or amend judgment, Rayphand said that Manglona has failed to consider the fact that the injury has already occurred. “A violation of the Voting Rights Act has already occurred,” she pointed out.

Rayphand said that CEC chair Frances M. Sablan and CEC executive director Robert A. Guerrero, who are named defendants in the case, violated the Voting Rights Act by setting up a separate registry for voting on any proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding Article 12.

“The application of voting standards and procedures in a discriminatory fashion results in denying plaintiff and other persons not of Northern Marianas descent the right to register to vote in any election regarding any proposed amendment to the Commonwealth Constitution regarding Article 12,” Rayphand said.

She said the violation of the Voting Rights Act and the deprivation of Davis’ civil rights is complete by the discrimination in registration.

“No election need be scheduled and no initiative need be on the ballot. The injury has taken place. Mr. Davis has standing and the issue is ripe for decision,” the lawyer added.

By Ferdie de la Torre

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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