BOH files counterclaim against Naraja’s wife, 3rd party claims against others
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has recused from presiding over a defamation lawsuit filed by the wife of Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja against Bank of Hawaii.
Frances DLG. Naraja is suing BOH for allegedly refusing to honor the eight cashier’s checks in the total amount of $290,000 that she had purchased in 2016, but then telling all the other banks on Saipan that she had improperly secured the cashier’s checks.
In her order of self-recusal Friday, Manglona said because plaintiff Mrs. Naraja’s husband, Presiding Judge Naraja, is presiding over litigation involving her (Manglona) family trust, she disqualifies herself from the case.
Manglona said the parties are free to consent to or decline having Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy preside over the case.
Aside from defamation, Mrs. Naraja, through counsel William M. Fitzgerald, is also suing BOH for allegedly dishonoring of cashier’s check and conversion.
Mrs. Naraja asked the Superior Court to order for the return of $290,000, represented by the cashier’s checks, with prejudgment interest from the date of their dishonor. She also sought for payment of damages.
She filed the lawsuit in the local court last July 13. But last Aug. 17, BOH, through counsel Sean Frink, filed a notice for the removal of the lawsuit to the District Court.
Frink said the bank’s basis for removal is diversity jurisdiction as BOH and Mrs. Naraja are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.000.
BOH recently filed an answer to the complaint. The bank also filed a counterclaim against Mrs. Naraja and third-party claims against Gloria DLG Sablan, Commonwealth Development Authority, and the Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero Family Trust.
Sablan is Mrs. Naraja’s sister.
According to Frink in the counterclaims and third-party claims, BOH simply seeks to join all of the potentially interested parties in one action so that their respective rights and responsibilities as to the $290,000 can be determined.
Frink said because Mrs. Naraja’s brother, Joaquin V. Deleon Guerrero, has declared bankruptcy, however, he cannot be joined as a third-party defendant in this action absent approval from the Bankruptcy Court.
Frink said BOH has filed a motion to lift the stay in the Bankruptcy action so that it can sue Joaquin Deleon Guerrero in this action and intends to join him as an additional third-party defendant once it obtains such approval.
The lawyer said Mrs. Naraja has sued BOH, claiming the entire $290,000 that was at one time in the savings account at the BOH that she jointly held with her sister Gloria Sablan, and her brother Joaquin Deleon Guerrero, and that was used to pay for the cashier’s checks in question.
Frink said Joaquin Deleon Guerrero and his wife declared bankruptcy, claiming that the true owner of the $290,000 is and was the Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero Family Trust.
He said Joaquin Deleon Guerrero has made similar claims in the Superior Court proceedings in which the CDA was pursuing his (Joaquin) assets in order to enforce a $400,000 plus judgment.
Frink said it was in these same actions that the CDA caused the Superior Court to issue writs that directed that the $290,000 be deposited with the Superior Court.
The lawyer said the $290,000 has been on deposit with the Superior Court since Jan. 12, 2017, where as best as BOH can tell no one has since laid claim to it.
Frink asked the federal court to enter judgment in BOH’s favor and against Mrs. Naraja on all claims raised in this complaint.
Frink asked the court to declare all of the parties’ respective positions with regard to the $290,000 that was in the BOH account, the cashier’s checks, and the $290,000 is on deposit in the Superior Court.
The lawyer asked the court to require the parties to comply with the court’s findings in all other matters.
Frink moved the court to require Mrs. Naraja and Mrs. Sablan to reimburse BOH for its costs in analyzing and defending itself against the lawsuit.