Suit vs Fitial over veto of casino bill under advisement

Posted on Jan 13 2012
By Ferdie de la Torre

Superior Court associate judge David A. Wiseman heard yesterday Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Rep. Joseph Palacios (R-Saipan) over Fitial’s veto of the controversial Saipan casino bill.

Wiseman placed the matter under advisement after hearing the arguments of Palacios and Fitial’s counsel, assistant attorney general Michael Stanker.

Palacios argued without a lawyer. Saipan Tribune spotted pro-casino lawmakers-House Speaker Eliceo D. Cabrera (R-Saipan) and Reps. Froilan C. Tenorio (Cov-Saipan), Ramon S. Basa (Cov-Saipan), Stanley T. Torres (Ind-Saipan), and Edmund S. Villagomez (Cov-Saipan)-in the court gallery.

Before the start of the hearing, Wiseman said that, as a practicing lawyer, he used to work with many of the lawmakers who were in the gallery. Palacios and Stanker did not object to Wiseman presiding over the hearing.

Stanker argued that if a governor vetoes a bill, the lawmakers’ remedy is to override the veto, not to file a lawsuit. He also pointed out that the governor has legislative immunity, otherwise every veto will be subjected to court challenge.

Stanker said that Palacios has not experienced a concrete and particularized injury as a result of Fitial vetoing HLB 17-44. “The remedy does not belong to the Judiciary,” he said.

In his reply, Palacios emphasized that he never challenged Fitial’s veto as that is his prerogative as a governor. Palacios reiterated his earlier position that he is not questioning the veto but the language that Fitial used when he stated that the bill was improperly acted on.

Palacios said an override requires two-thirds of both the House and Senate, therefore the bill would not go anywhere because it would have to go through the Senate, which has consistently blocked casino legislations for Saipan.

Palacios asked the court to just rule on his request to declare whether a local law is a Commonwealth law.

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