A taxpayer action would be a better way to resolve the issue of legislative salary increases and not Attorney General Edward Manibusan himself filing the lawsuit, according to Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson.
Larson, through counsels Matthew T. Gregory and Kimberlyn Kay King-Hinds, said in addition a certified question would be a more amicable way to resolving the matter.
In Larson’s reply to Manibusan’s opposition to her motion to dismiss the AG’s lawsuit, Gregory and King-Hinds said taxpayers are more than capable of bringing taxpayer actions to rectify any issue involving the pay raises.
“We have a situation where the CNMI is essentially suing itself,” the lawyers pointed out.
Gregory and King-Hinds asserted that the AG does not have standing to bring this lawsuit against Larson.
The lawyers said the question of whether Manibusan may sue the CNMI has not been decided by a CNMI court, making this is a question of first impression in the Commonwealth.
Gregory and King-Hinds said Manibusan has cited Superior Court decisions regarding the power of the AG, however, none of these decisions is binding on this court.
In this case, Gregory and King-Hinds noted, the CNMI AG is suing the CNMI executive branch through Larson.
They said in the absence of an explicit statement, the Superior Court will have to make a decision as a case of first impression on this issue.
The lawyers said there is no actual case or controversy between Manibusan and Larson.
Gregory and King-Hinds said while it is true that an injunction against or court order barring Larson from making salary payments would grant effective relief in preventing payment of such salaries, Manibusan has not adequately addressed the fundamental issue raised by Larson, that she has no real stake in the litigation and thus there is no real controversy.
Larson, meanwhile, withdrew a portion of her motion to dismiss involving the statute of limitations argument. She, however, reserved the right to raise this issue after further discovery.
Larson moved to dismiss Manibusan’s lawsuit. Through counsel, she argues, among other things, that the “all other actions” statute of limitations of six years bars the government’s challenge to the legislative salary increases found in Public Laws 7-31 and 4-32 because they went into effect more than six years ago.
In opposition to Larson’s motion to dismiss, Manibusan, through counsel assistant attorney general Michael Witry, argued that Larson is the proper defendant in his lawsuit because she is the one who must be restrained from paying illegal salaries, and that the statute of limitations does not prevent this case because the public sustains a new injury each time an illegal paycheck is issued.
Witry asserted that the statute of limitations has not run in his lawsuit that challenges the legislative salary increases because the violation continues every time an elected official receives a paycheck.
Manibusan’s lawsuit against Larson alleges that Public Law 19-83, which provided the salary increases, is unconstitutional because the Advisory Commission that recommended such increase was not validly constitute, and that such increase recommended by the commission for the Legislature exceeded the change in an “accepted price index” since the last time the salary was adjusted.
Manibusan asked the court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent Larson from implementing the law.