OAG says Superior Court lacks jurisdiction


The Superior Court has no jurisdiction to hear a motion to declare the 2016 Budget Act unconstitutional, according to the Office of the Attorney General yesterday.

Assistant attorney general David Lochabay also asserted that the plaintiffs, who filed such a request to declare, have no standing to assert the claims they made in the motion.

Lochabay said plaintiffs have no property right to payment of their judgments at any particular time, including through the 2016 budget.

“As they have no property right they have no constitutional protection and the constitutional claims fail,” said Lochabay in the government’s opposition to the motion to declare.

The government counsel said plaintiffs entered into stipulated judgments and any harm they suffered as a result is self-inflicted.

Attorney Michael W. Dotts, counsel for the parents of a baby who died during delivery in 2012 at the Commonwealth Health Center, has asked the Superior Court to declare the 2016 Budget Act unconstitutional.

Dotts said the Budget Act of 2016 is unconstitutionally unbalanced under the Commonwealth Constitution, Article 3, Section 9(a) because it did not provide for the payment of judgments in a reasonable amount.

Further, Dotts said, the 2016 Budget Act is unconstitutional under both the Commonwealth Constitution and the U.S. Constitution as violating both procedural due process and equal protection.

Dotts is counsel for Jotonia B. Aguon and Timothy Cruz, who are holding a $35,000 judgment against the government over the death of their child.

Dotts is also counsel for Gorjonny Camacho, who is holding a $10,000 judgment against the government in connection with his medical malpractice lawsuit.

Camacho went to CHC for an appendectomy, but the surgeon instead allegedly used permanent stitches instead of dissolving stitches.

As a result, a skin nodule developed on the site of the surgery, causing him pain and forcing him to undergo a second surgery to remove the skin nodule and remove his stitches.

Dotts brought up the issue of unbalanced 2016 budget in order to collect payments for court judgments against the government.

In the government’s opposition filed yesterday, Lochabay said Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has exceeded the court’s jurisdiction by ordering a hearing on whether the government’s 2016 budget should be held unconstitutional.

Lochabay said whatever the extent of the Superior Court’s authority under the law, it certainly does not include finding the government’s budget unconstitutional.

“There is no rational and substantial argument that could support the trial court’s decision,” he said.

Lochabay said plaintiffs do not have standing to bring this motion, as they have suffered no injury-in-fact, a requirement of standing.

Lochabay said plaintiffs requested judgments, not settlements.

“Plaintiffs could have had settlements had they so requested. Thus, any injury plaintiffs have is self-inflicted,” he added.

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

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