Inmate’s lawsuit perplexes DOC official


Former Department of Corrections commissioner Georgia M. Cabrera has asked the federal court to order prison inmate Reynaldo A. Manila to clarify his lawsuit against her and other DOC officials and officers.

Cabrera, through counsel assistant attorney general Hessel Yntema, said she is at a loss and unable to form a response to Manila’s complaint.

Cabrera is currently the director of DOC’s civil division.

Yntema said that Manila’s complaint leaves Cabrera in a position where her counsel is unable to perform a proper conflict check, let alone prepare a responsive pleading.

Yntema said Cabrera, without knowing the basis for Manila’s claims, cannot properly seek substitution pursuant to the Commonwealth Liability Act.

Cabrera asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to order Manila to amend his complaint to clearly distinguish between personal capacity and official capacity defendants, provide a jurisdictional statement, and clarify all causes of action as they are applied to each defendant.

Manila, who blames his progressive vision loss on the negligence of DOC, has filed an amended complaint in federal court naming as defendants Cabrera, former DOC commissioner Robert Guerrero, and former acting DOC commissioner Jose K. Pangelinan.

Manila filed the amended complaint pro se (or without a lawyer) following U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s recent order that found his complaint not frivolous.

In that order, Manglona said Manila’s complaint fails to identify by name the persons or entities against whom he is complaining. The judge instructed Manila to amend his complaint by naming a defendant or defendants.

Manila has sought help from the District Court after his eye surgery at the Commonwealth Health Center last September was allegedly unsuccessful and that he is worried he is losing his vision.

Manila said the actions and inactions of DOC have resulted in him suffering from the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.

In Cabrera’s motion for a more definite statement, Yntema said Manila “alleges facts to have occurred over the course of a number of years that could give rise to any number of causes of action against any number of defendants in either their official or personal capacities.”

Yntema said plaintiff neither distinguishes between official or personal capacity defendants, nor does he name particular causes of action against any particular defendant, nor does he make a statement of jurisdiction.

Yntema said while civil rights claims seeking compensatory damages are presumed to be alleged against defendants in their personal capacity, as written it is still impossible to determine whether the court has jurisdiction over Manila’s claims.

As it is impossible to determine what claims he is bringing, Yntema said that Cabrera cannot answer, or even more to dismiss without engaging in guesswork.

Yntema said defendants understand that Manila is pro se and presently simply seek to work with him and the court to have a fair and organized resolution to this issue.

In order to accomplish this, Yntema said, Cabrera cannot assume certain facts and ask the court to order Manila to provide further clarification to his complaint.

Manila, now 56 years old, has been serving 17 years of a 60-year prison term.

The Superior Court sentenced him in June 2002 to 60 years in prison for second-degree murder over the death of his 6-month-old goddaughter.

A jury found Manila guilty of second-degree murder and child abuse.

Manila insists that he did not kill the child.

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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