Judge remands to Superior Court 2 of 4 claims in ex-PSS chief’s suit


U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has remanded to the Superior Court two of the four claims in the lawsuit filed by former Public School System commissioner Cynthia I. Deleon Guerrero against the Board of Education and its members over her termination.

In her order issued last Friday, Manglona granted Deleon Guerrero’s motion to remand to the Superior Court her claims for wrongful termination and breach of contract.

Manglona, however, denied Deleon Guerrero’s request for attorney’s fees and costs.

Manglona said the complaint’s first two causes of action—violation of her due process rights and conspiracy to violate her due process rights—will be the sole claims subject to defendants BOE’s and its members’ motion to dismiss, which is currently set for a hearing on April 26 at 1:30pm.

Deleon Guerrero asked the federal court to remand the federal due process and conspiracy to violate due process claims as well as the state law claims, contending that all of the claims arise out of her employment contract and therefore fall within the choice-of-forum clause.

In her order, Manglona said even though the property interest at issue is a contract, the federal claims are not actions “brought for enforcement of” the contract, but rather are for enforcement of Deleon Guerrero’s civil rights.

Manglona said the federal claims are therefore not governed by the choice-of-forum clause.

The parties do not dispute that the civil rights claims are federal questions.

Accordingly, Manglona said, the federal claims were properly removed from the Superior Court, and Deleon Guerrero’s motion to remand them is denied.

As to the state claims, Manglona said absent exceptional circumstances, a valid choice-of-forum clause is controlling as to where a claim may be filed.

The judge said the parties do not dispute the validity of the clause and do not point to exceptional circumstances that would justify this court disregarding it.

Further, Manglona said she finds that the interests of the Commonwealth in adjudicating and enforcing its government agency contracts governed by Commonwealth law outweigh the interests of this court in deciding the case.

Accordingly, Manglona said, Deleon Guerrero’s motion is granted as to the wrongful termination and breach of contract claims, and they are remanded to the Superior Court.

Deleon Guerrero is suing the BOE and its members in federal court for terminating her as the PSS commissioner last October. She is also suing the board members in their individual capacities. She is demanding $350,000 in damages.

According to Deleon Guerrero, her termination was done in retaliation for her questioning BOE’s micromanagement of PSS and her refusal of a request for an unlawful transfer of $175,000 of PSS funds to the board’s account.

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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