Editor’s Note: The Office of the Governor issued the following statement on May 18, 2022, in response to the dismissal of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ lawsuit against the House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee.
The Superior Court has held that the Office of the Governor could not proceed with its case against the House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee. Although the administration respects the decision of the judge, we believe the decision is erroneous by ignoring and misinterpreting law and precedent. For example, in its rush to follow federal precedent, it skipped right over the plain text of the Commonwealth Constitution. Then it overlooked some of the most important protections found even in the federal cases—such as the rule that the legislature may subpoena the executive only when the information it needs is not reasonably available anywhere else. The decision will be appealed. It will be for the Supreme Court to ultimately decide the merits of this civil case.
In any event, no matter how much the governor’s opponents may spin it, a civil case has no bearing on the impeachment process. It also does not defeat the fact that contempt is not an impeachable offense, or that Gov. Torres has affirmative defenses provided by that same contempt statute. The civil case also does not overcome the fact that the Articles of Impeachment contain unconstitutional penalties.
It is for the Senate, and the Senate alone, to decide whether the House JGO Committee acted properly in commanding the governor to come before it, whether the governor acted reasonably in response, and whether Gov. Torres engaged in an impeachable offense warranting his removal from office. Ultimately, it is for the Senate to decide whether to disregard the CNMI Constitution as the Articles of Impeachment ask it to do.
Gov. Torres statement: “I have received the decision from Judge Bellas, and although we disagree with his decision, I would like to personally thank him for the time and attention he gave to this judicial issue. This is extremely important for our Commonwealth, its people and its government, and we deserve a full and correct determination on the issue. Accordingly, we will appeal this decision and ask the Supreme Court to overrule it.”