Defense wants suit vs Atalig dismissed 


Jose Mafnas

The defense counsel for Department of Finance Secretary David Atalig, one of the named defendants in Customs director Jose Mafnas’ lawsuit, has reiterated its request to substitute the Commonwealth for Atalig and dismiss the current suit against the secretary.

In the recent motion filed by Atalig’s lawyer, assistant attorney general Leslie Healer, the defense reiterates its intent to substitute Atalig for the Commonwealth in this case and have the court dismiss the lawsuit against Atalig.

“The Commonwealth prays that the court substitute the Commonwealth for Atalig as the party defendant; dismiss claims against Atalig in his personal capacity pursuant to 7 CMC § 2210(a) and 7 CMC 2210(b)(1); and dismiss claims deemed to be against the Commonwealth due to the Commonwealth’s sovereign immunity in federal courts from claims arising under the Commonwealth’s own laws,” Healer said.

Last week, Mafnas filed his opposition to the Commonwealth’s certification of scope of employment of David DLG Atalig, which ultimately argues that Atalig issued the memorandum for Mafnas’ relocation in his capacity as CNMI DOF secretary, and notice of substitution.

However, Healer claims the opposition fails to completely undermine the substitution.

“As an initial matter, plaintiff has not disputed the basis for the Commonwealth’s certification of Atalig (i.e., that he was acting within the scope of employment) under 7 CMC § 2210. Rather, Plaintiff disputes that substitution of the Commonwealth for Atalig is improper under 7 CMC § 2208. Plaintiff’s argument that 7 CMC § 2208(b)(2)(A) precludes substitution fails because the first and fifth causes of action allege statutory violations based upon the Personnel Service System Rules and Regulations (‘PSSR&R’), not the United States or Commonwealth Constitution,” she argued.

Healer stated that Mafnas has failed to show that the conduct of Atalig alleged in the lawsuit was not the kind he was employed to perform.

“Plaintiff alleges that Atalig committed procedural errors when carrying out his duties under the PSSR&R. However, the plaintiff has not shown that the actions of Atalig was done outside their ‘time and space limits,’” Healer said

In addition, Healer said Mafnas did not dispute that facts show that Atalig was on-duty at the time of the alleged events.

“Plaintiff has not shown that the actions of Atalig were not undertaken by a purpose to serve the people of the Commonwealth; Atalig was assisting another agency for the betterment of the Commonwealth community. The plaintiff must come forward with affirmative evidence to refute the certification for the alleged violations of the PSSR&R. He has not done so, and his opposition to the certification and substitution must accordingly be denied,” the lawyer stated.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Mafnas is suing Atalig, and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ chief of staff William Castro, over his recent relocation to the Department of Corrections.

Currently, Mafnas remains Customs director following a stipulated preliminary injunction previously granted by District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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