U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has granted the U.S. Department of the Navy’s and U.S. Department of Defense’s motion to strike the portion of four environmental groups’ brief that discuss the 2013 CNMI Joint Military Training Requirements and Siting Study.
Manglona said having considered the environmental groups’ new argument about why the Siting Study should be considered as extra-record evidence, and the authority provided by all parties, she finds no sufficient cause or manifest error to justify reconsidering her prior ruling.
The groups—Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, Pagan Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity—are suing the Navy and Defense and their secretaries for alleged violation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) over their decision to relocate 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and to conduct live-training on Tinian and Pagan.
The Navy and Defense, through counsel U.S. Department of Justice, moved to strike the groups’ citation to extra-record evidence.
DOJ trial attorney Joshua P. Wilson said in violation of Manglona’s order excluding the Siting Study from the administrative record in this case, the groups cited and relief on that document, and attached the Siting Study to its opposition to the U.S. government’s motion for summary judgment.
In their opposition brief to the U.S. government’s motion for summary judgment, the groups have referred to the Siting Study to refute Navy’s and Defense’s claim that the CNMT project “is designed to serve the training needs of ‘all U.S. and allied forces in the Pacific,’ regardless of whether they are stationed in the Marinas.”
In granting defendants’ motion to strike, Manglona said in their motion for summary judgment, the groups have already argued, based on the administrative record, that no other forces would make more than “occasional use of some of the training facilities” proposed for the Mariana Islands, and therefore the CJMT is inherently connected with the Guam relocation decisions.
The judge said what plaintiffs (groups) want is for more specific information about which units in the Mariana Islands were affected in order to argue that there is “no need for the CJMT program to pursue the…training projects on Tinian or Pagan” without the Marines who would be relocated from Okinawa and therefore the actions are connected.
Manglona said even if the administrative record does not have a specific document that describes the specific units using the training facilities in the Mariana Islands, the “general subject matter” of who would be using the training facilities is addressed in the record, as demonstrated by plaintiffs’ own motion for summary judgment.
Manglona said given the narrow circumstances in which a court may consider extra-record evidence, she concludes there is no manifest error or sufficient cause to reconsider her decision to exclude the Siting Study from consideration.
The judge agrees that the groups’ request is not legally time-barred, but agrees with the Navy and Defense that it was not appropriate for the groups to rely on the Siting Study in their brief in opposition to defendants’ motion for summary judgment without first submitting a separate request for reconsideration.
Nonetheless, Manglona said, she considers the groups’ request on the merits.