Justices place certified questions under advisement


The CNMI Supreme Court placed under advisement on Friday two certified questions that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Attorney General Edward Manibusan filed before the CNMI Supreme Court pertaining to an appeal on voting right ruling.

Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro and Associate Justices John A. Manglona and Perry B. Inos said a written decision is forthcoming.

Attorney Gil Birnbrich argued for Torres, while deputy attorney general Lillian Tenorio argued for Manibusan. Both the governor and Manibusan were not in the courtroom.

Torres and Manibusan raised the question whether the attorney general may decline to appeal an adverse judgment despite the wishes of the governor or a client government agency.

The two officials also asked whether the governor or client agency may hire, without the attorney general’s prior approval, an outside lawyer to prosecute the appeal.

Torres wrote a letter last July 4 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s clerk of court to rebut Manibusan’s letter that says the petition that Torres and the Commonwealth Election Commission filed about the voting right issue before the high court was unauthorized.

In the letter, Torres asked U.S. Supreme Court’s clerk of court Scott Harris to disregard Manibusan’s “attempt to cast doubt” on the petition for certiorari, since he and the other petitioners endorse, approve and authorize it in full.

A lawyer provided Saipan Tribune a copy of the governor’s letter in response to a news article about the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of the petition that Torres, CEC, and its officials filed.

The petition seeks a re-examination of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision affirming U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s ruling that voters who are not of Northern Marianas descent must be able to vote on Article 12 initiative and any other initiatives to amend Article 12.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Office of the Clerk informed the 9th Circuit that the petition filed by Torres, CEC, and CEC officials has been denied.

Attorney Joseph Horey, who represents the Northern Marianas Descent Corp., filed the petition on behalf of Torres, CEC, and CEC officials.

In Manibusan’s letter dated June 20, 2017, he informed the U.S. Supreme Court’s clerk of court that such filing was unauthorized.

Manibusan pointed out that none of the petitioners—Torres, CEC, and CEC officials—have the authority to file the petition.

But in his July 4 letter, Torres informed Harris that he, CEC and CEC officials authorized Horey to file the petition.

Last Nov. 14, the CNMI high court accepted the parties’ certified questions and set a briefing schedule.

Birnbrich said the AG may not unilaterally decline to appeal an adverse judgment against the wishes of its clients when the clients, the governor or government agency, desire to prosecute the appeal.

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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