Man’s request to open new suit vs FEMA is denied

Fargo advised to file a waiver before FEMA to forgive his $2,990 debt for humanitarian reasons

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona denied yesterday a Russian national’s request that the court open a new lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the same order, Manglona clarified the rationale behind her previous order that stayed the proceedings in Milan Fargo’s lawsuit against FEMA.

Manglona declined to allow Fargo to file a separate cause of action against FEMA. The judge also declined to lift the stay currently in effect in Fargo’s lawsuit.

Manglona said that, as she previously informed the parties, a stay essentially freezes a case, meaning there should be no activity in the case until the stay is lifted. Therefore, Manglona said, she will not entertain any additional filings by either party, other than a motion to lift the stay, prior to the status conference that is already scheduled for May 28, 2020, at 9:30am.

In February 2019, Fargo filed a pro se complaint (filed without a lawyer) against FEMA for allegedly finding him ineligible for some or all of the FEMA funds given him after Super Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 and demanding that he repay the money. In July 2019, Manglona dismissed all claims except one in Fargo’s lawsuit. Manglona found that Fargo has stated a claim on which relief may be granted, but only as to FEMA’s determination that he was ineligible for disaster assistance after Typhoon Soudelor.

Last March 28, Fargo submitted to the court via email some documents, but no complaint. In her order yesterday, Manglona said it is clear from the documents that Fargo is requesting that the court open a new civil action against FEMA. Manglona declined to do so. Instead, Manglona said she will docket Fargo’s email and attachments as a notice and status report in this case because it does include some updated information that the court relies upon in reaching this decision, namely the Jan. 29, 2020 and Feb. 26, 2020 letter from FEMA to Fargo.

The judge noted that the subject matter in Fargo’s new filing is the same as that currently before the court in this case: FEMA’s efforts to recoup the financial assistance it provided to Fargo in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Soudelor in 2015. Fargo names the same defendant, FEMA

Manglona reminded Fargo that she has already dismissed with prejudice his claims about FEMA’s refusal to provide him medical assistance, FEMA’s use of the Aging Center in Saipan, all complaints related to a FEMA email accounts, and denial of assistance relating to Super Typhoon Yutu. A dismissal with prejudice is a final adjudication.

Manglona said that, as she had previously explained, she dismissed those claims with prejudice because they involve discretionary functions over which the government has not waived its sovereign immunity. Manglona said the court has no jurisdiction to hear those claims and, as such, Fargo was instructed not to renew those claims in any amended pleadings.

The judge said Fargo’s sole claim against FEMA is his dispute of FEMA’s final determination that he is ineligible for disaster assistance after Typhoon Soudelor and his opposition to its efforts to recover the funds paid to him based on the fact that he never received any notice of its debt recovery letters.

FEMA has filed a motion to dismiss the case. Subsequently, on the parties’ joint motion, the court stayed this case last Jan. 16 to allow for FEMA to reinitiate the processing of Fargo’s debt. Manglona said it is her understanding that this procedure would allow Fargo to ask that FEMA waive any debt owed.

Manglona said that, having reviewed the document submitted, it appears that FEMA recalled Fargo’s debt, started the processing of the debt anew, and made the final determination that Fargo owes $2,990 to FEMA for funds it erroneously gave him after Soudelor. At this stage in the procedure, Manglona said, Fargo may now submit a request to FEMA that it waive his debt for humanitarian reasons, including age, health, and inability to pay. The assistant U.S. attorney representing FEMA informed the court and Fargo that the deadline to file his waiver application is April 16, 2020.

While Fargo is not obligated to request a waiver, Manglona encourages him to file such a waiver as affording him the opportunity to request that FEMA forgive his debt for humanitarian reasons, which is why she stayed this matter.

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

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