The U.S. District Court for the NMI has granted Division of Customs director Jose Mafnas’ request for a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the Department of Finance and Secretary David Atalig from reassigning him to the Department of Commerce until a judgment on Mafnas’ complaint is issued.
Last Monday, the parties involved in Mafnas’ lawsuit stipulated—or agreed—that Mafnas’ request for a preliminary injunction should be granted, which would preserve the status quo and prevent his reassignment to the Department of Commerce, which prompted the lawsuit in the first place.
Yesterday, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona granted the stipulation filed by the parties, finding that a preliminary injunction is necessary to preserve the status quo.
Pursuant to the stipulation, Manglona restrained Atalig from putting into effect his July 21, 2022, memorandum that reassigns Mafnas to a position within the Department of Commerce.
Atalig was also ordered to maintain the status quo as it was before the pending controversy, with Mafnas employed as the director of Customs and Biosecurity under the Department of Finance until such time that this case is resolved on the merits or the case is otherwise concluded due to entry of judgment or settlement.
The judge also ordered that Atalig and William Castro, the chief of staff of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, not to interfere with or take any adverse action against Mafnas’ employment until such time that the case is resolved on the merits or the case has otherwise ended.
In addition, the court found that Mafnas’ posting of the $500 security for the previously issued temporary restraining order shall be sufficient security for the issuance of a preliminary injunction.
Lastly, Manglona ordered that Atalig and Castro must file their responsive pleadings, if any, to Mafnas’ complaint on or before Sept. 1.
“Defendants are hereby notified that any action by them in violation of the preliminary injunction order may be considered and prosecuted as contempt of this court,” Manglona ordered.
In a statement from Mafnas’ lawyer, Charity Hodson, she said her client is thankful that this hurdle in the case has been cleared.
“This was the next hurdle and Mr. Mafnas is thankful to have cleared it. The parties have stipulated to and the court has issued a stipulated preliminary injunction order, which is intended to restrict the defendants from interfering with or adversely affecting Mr. Mafnas’s employment as the director of Customs and Biosecurity while the lawsuit is pending,” she said.
Matthew Gregory and Leslie Healer represent Atalig in this case, while Colin Thompson represents Castro.