The Office of the Attorney General has apologized for its oversight in moving to dismiss the discrimination lawsuit filed by former acting chief prosecutor Shelli Neal against OAG and the CNMI government over her alleged demotion and subsequent termination from OAG in 2014.
Assistant attorney general Christopher M. Timmons has notified the U.S. District Court for the NMI of OAG’s and CNMI government’s withdrawal of their motion to dismiss Neal’s lawsuit for insufficiency of service of process.
Timmons, however, stressed that OAG and the CNMI government do not withdraw the motion to dismiss in its entirety as they will continue to pursue their motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Timmons said that last Tuesday, Neal’s counsel informed him that he possessed a proof of service reflecting service upon the government of a summons with Neal’s first amended complaint.
Timmons said Neal’s counsel also told him that OAG’s front desk clerk Sephora Williams had signed for the receipt of the summons.
On this basis, Timmons said, he is withdrawing that portion of defendants’ motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of process.
The government lawyer apologized to Neal and to the court for their oversight.
In OAG’s and the CNMI government’s motion to dismiss, Timmons asserted that Neal has sued a government body that cannot be sued and has failed to serve the Commonwealth with a summons or complaint.
Timmons said Neal has failed to timely exhaust her administrative remedies and failed to bring her claims before the U.S. District Court for the NMI within the statutory time limits.
Timmons said Neal’s allegations do not rise to the level necessary to support her Title VII claims (employment discrimination).
In her original complaint filed 2015, Neal alleged, among other things, that male prosecutors revealed confidential work product information to opposing lawyers regarding her cases in an effort to sabotage the cases and results.
Neal, who is an African-American lawyer, also disclosed that a then-chief prosecutor called her a “bitch” on multiple occasions and allowed white male employees to engage in discussions of a sexual nature in front of her and other female employees.
The incidents alleged in Neal’s complaint did not happen during AG Edward Manibusan’s term.
In her original complaint, Neal is suing OAG for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, subjecting her to hostile work environment, retaliation, violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Neal amended her complaint to add the CNMI government as defendant.
The lawyer asked the court to hold OAG liable to pay her back pay with prejudgment interest in amounts to be determined at trial, and other relief necessary to eradicate the effects of the OAG’s alleged unlawful employment practices.
Neal also demanded payment for compensation, punitive damages, and compensatory damages. She asked that she be reinstated to her previous position as chief prosecutor with the OAG.
In March 2010, the OAG recruited Neal for a position in the criminal division. She was hired for a one-year contract, handling domestic violence cases. At the time, she had approximately 15 years of experience practicing law in Tennessee and Texas.