A disbarred lawyer has asked the CNMI Supreme Court to reinstate his license so he can again practice law in the CNMI.
Joseph A. Arriola promised that, if given the chance to practice law anew, he is committed to maintaining the same efforts toward rehabilitation that he has made since 2010.
To support his petition, Arriola vowed to continue his public advocacy in drug awareness and prevention, particularly in both private and public schools.
The CNMI Supreme Court will hear the petition on Feb. 8 at 10am.
Arriola pointed out that during the course of his three-year federal criminal probation, he was compliant with the federal court’s instructions on his restitution obligation.
Since the date of his probation discharge in March 2016 until the present, he said he continues to remain compliant with his restitution payment obligation.
“I am tremendously remorseful, not just for my wrongful conduct, but most especially for the consequences that resulted therefrom,” said Arriola.
Arriola pleaded guilty in June 2010 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. In October that year, he started to serve his 58-month prison term. He was required to pay $625,775 in restitution with co-defendant, Luis K. Pelisamen.
In September 2010, the Superior Court disbarred Arriola from practicing law based on his federal conviction.
After serving the prison term, Arriola official began his three-year probation in August 2012.
He stated that during the course of the three-year probation that expired in August 2015, he did not fail a single drug/alcohol test, and never missed a single group and individual counseling session.
In early 2016, Arriola gave presentations at 15 schools in the past one and a half year. In addition, he was active in other community matters in connection with drug awareness and prevention.
In November 2016, Arriola took the multistate professional responsibility examination that was administered at the Northern Marianas College.
Arriola said the passing score was 80, but he got 92.
As to the issue of competence to practice law, the disbarred lawyer said during his prison term, he volunteered his time with the federal correctional institution’s law library in organizing law books and updating California law journal materials, as well as receiving, organizing, and updating opinions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Starting in 2013 and continuing through 2016, Arriola said he started performing paralegal work for Janet H. King’s law office.
He said he is currently providing paralegal services to the law office of Rosemond Santos.
Arriola recalled that during his early years of legal practice, his heavy dependence on alcohol subsequently led to habitual use of marijuana, and then to experimenting with meth or “ice.”
He admitted that his subsequent dependency on “ice” brought him to a level of addiction.
Arriola said his then-addiction to “ice” was so grave that it negatively transformed his attitude toward his responsibilities as a legal practitioner and to detriment of his clients.
He admitted that in exchange for signing checks, he received “transaction fee” from an administrator of an estate that was awarded $1.3 million in land compensation.
He said the administrator gave him a small percentage of the funds advanced, which in turn he used to support his “ice” addiction.
Arriola said the probate court became aware of the depleted probate funds and it signaled the beginning of his demise as a legal practitioner.
Feeling overwhelmed with his addiction and the pressure of his failure as a lawyer, Arriola said he abruptly closed his law office on Saipan, abandoned his clients and their files, and departed the CNMI for the U.S. mainland.
When he learned from a family member about an indictment filed against him in January 2008, Arriola said for fear and shame, while on his way back to Saipan from the U.S. mainland, he exited the airport in Manila, Philippines.
He said he remained in hiding in the Philippines, where he resided in a province for over one year and 10 months.
Arriola said in November 2009, he was escorted back to the CNMI by federal officials, and was detained at the Department of Corrections during the pendency of his federal criminal proceedings.
Arriola said after arriving at his designated federal prison facility after he pleaded guilty, he immediately took steps toward his rehabilitation process and became a General Education teacher in which he helped numerous federal inmates acquire their GED diploma.