Parties in Mafnas’ suit agree on issuance of preliminary injunction


Division of Customs director Jose Mafnas and his lawyer, Charity Hodson, leave the U.S. District Court for the NMI yesterday. (KIMBERLY B. ESMORES)

With the temporary restraining order taken out by Division of Customs director Jose Mafnas against the Department of Finance, its secretary David Atalig, and William Castro set to expire today, the parties have agreed to have the court grant a preliminary injunction that would prohibit Mafnas’ reassignment to the Department of Commerce until a judgment is issued in this case.

During a hearing on Mafnas’ motion for a preliminary injunction yesterday at the U.S. District Court for the NMI, Mafnas, through his lawyer, Charity Hodson, and Atalig, through his lawyers, Matthew Gregory and Leslie Healer, all agreed to the issuance of a preliminary injunction while the case is pending resolution.

According to Chief Judge Ramona Manglona, once the stipulation is signed and filed by all parties involved, the preliminary injunction will be granted and supersede the temporary restraining order that had been previously granted.

The parties officially filed the stipulation at around 6pm yesterday afternoon.

In a statement from Hodson after the hearing, she said it’s a good day for all the parties involved.

“The parties entered into a stipulation for the issuance of a preliminary injunction, so this was pursuant to the parties’ agreement so it’s a good day and we’re happy,” she said.

Next, the parties may enter into a mediation conference to resolve the issue internally but if that can’t happen, the case will move forward to trial, Hodson added.

Meanwhile, in a comment from Gregory following the hearing, he said his client, Atalig, wants to resolve the matter and the stipulation for the issuance of a preliminary injunction is the first step.

“We’re doing our best to work together to resolve this matter. Again, if current director [Mafnas] was unhappy with the transfer, we thought the best course of events was to keep him in the position he was in and we’ll resolve the other issues in court. It doesn’t seem worth the fight. We’re happy with his services as the director so there’s no reason to further fight about whether a preliminary injunction should be issued or not. We thought it would be better to do it this way,” he said.

According to court documents, Mafnas filed his lawsuit against the Department of Finance, its secretary, and Torres’ chief of staff with the U.S. District Court for the NMI last July 28.

Aside from the lawsuit, Mafnas also filed a motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction to essentially prohibit Atalig or Castro from reassigning him pending judgment.

On Aug. 2, 2022, the court granted Mafnas’ motion for TRO effective through Aug. 16.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at
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