OAG: Carolinian customary relationships that are not solemnized aren’t marriages


Carolinian customary relationships that are not solemnized are not marriages, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

On the other hand, Carolinian customary relationships that are solemnized are marriages, according to OAG Civil Division chief Christopher M. Timmons.

Timmons discussed Carolinian marital practices in the government’s opposition to Remedio Elameto and Pedro Pua’s brief pertaining to the validity of Carolinian customary marriages.

Timmons said Elameto and Pua ask the Superior Court to make findings on the issue of Carolinian customary marriages in response to the government’s motion to dismiss their lawsuit, even though the two pleaded a different theory of marriage in their complaint, and even though the facts they pleaded clearly establish that they did not conduct a solemnization as required by the Commonwealth’s marital statutes.

For this reason, Timmons said, the court should dismiss Pua’s complaint for loss of consortium.

Elameto and her common-law husband, Pua, are suing the CNMI government and two former Commonwealth Health Center doctors, Rajee Iyer and Gary Ramsey, for medical malpractice, bad faith, and emotional distress and loss of consortium.

Elameto claimed that a surgical team at CHC allegedly left a 15-centimeter-long surgical clamp in her abdomen during a surgery in August 2000.

Almost 14 years later, in June 2014, the surgical clamp was discovered and removed at the Guam Memorial Hospital, Elameto said.

The CNMI government, through the OAG, moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, through counsel Claire Kelleher-Smith, opposed the motion to dismiss.

In the government’s and co-defendants’ brief filed on Friday, Timmons said Elameto and Pua failed to plead a theory of Carolinian customary marriage in their complaint and instead, they claimed that they were common-law spouses.

Timmons said plaintiffs argue that because Carolinian customary relationships are not solemnized, the phrase “solemnized in accordance with recognized customs” in the statute is a contradiction in terms when applied to Carolinians.

“But while some traditional Carolinian relationships did not involve solemnization, many did,” he pointed out.

Timmons summarized that “solemnized in accordance with recognized customs” is not an oxymoron when applied to Carolinians.

He cited that 8CMC Section 1205 permits relationships to be recognized as marriages if they are solemnized in accordance with such recognized Carolinian customs as feasts and ceremonial gift exchanges.

“It does not permit relationships to be recognized as marriages if they are not solemnized at all,” he said, adding that because Elameto and Pua argue that their marriage was by common law, they assert that their marriage contained no ceremony, and therefore, it is not recognized by the statute.

Timmons said even if the plaintiffs show that Carolinian customary relationships are akin to marriage in the Commonwealth, they cannot demonstrate that a loss of consortium suit is the appropriate traditional remedy for damages caused to that relationship.

For that reason, Timmons asked the court to dismiss Pua’s claims for loss of consortium.

He argued that the court should resolve the statute of limitations question prior to considering the issue of Carolinian customary marriage.

Timmons said the Commonwealth does not recognize the existence of common law marriage.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.