Hearing on Torres lawsuit is pushed back

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The initial hearing for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ lawsuit against the House of Representatives’ Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations has been pushed back and will now be heard in March.

Superior Court Judge pro tempore Timothy Bellas has granted the request of the parties to reschedule the hearing on the JGO’s previous motion to dismiss Torres’ lawsuit. Bellas, following a joint stipulation from the parties, vacated the hearing set for Feb. 18, and rescheduled it for March 31, 9am.

The judge also ordered Torres to respond to the JGO’s motion to dismiss by Feb. 24. The JGO was also ordered to submit a response no later than March 24.

According to the motion filed by JGO counsels Brendan Layde and Joseph Taijeron Jr., the CNMI Constitution’s speech or debate clause is intended to protect legislators from harassment by the Executive Branch, including “the burden of defending meritless lawsuits.”

“The speech or debate clause protects the JGO Committee from harassment such as this lawsuit as it exercises legislative oversight. It has absolute immunity for acts, such as the subpoena for the governor to testify, that fall within the sphere of legitimate legislative activity. The suit must therefore be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6),” the motion stated.

Last month, Torres and the Office of the Governor sued the JGO Committee over its decision to hold him in contempt. Torres, as relief, wants the Superior Court to declare that the JGO Committee’s subpoena served on him is invalid and unlawful.

Torres stated in his complaint that he is suing the JGO committee for violation of Commonwealth statute in issuing the subpoena, infringement upon the testimonial immunity conferred by the Commonwealth Constitution, lacking valid legislative purpose in violation of the Commonwealth Constitution, and usurping responsibilities constitutionally delegated to other executive offices in violation of the Commonwealth Constitution.

In addition, Torres also asks the court to quash the subpoena and stop the committee from enforcing the subpoena as relief.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista 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 kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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