Govt fails to pay Luisa Quitugua for taking property 2 decades ago
Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Elbert Quitugua and his mother or other persons from blocking and obstructing the use of Santa Lourdes Road in As Teo.
Kim-Tenorio ordered Elbert Quitugua and Luisa Borja Quitugua and other persons acting in cooperation with them to remove any blockages they have recently placed on the road.
The judge set a hearing for June 22, 2016 at 1:30pm the CNMI government’s motion for preliminary injunction against the Quituguas.
In an interview yesterday, Elbert Quitugua said they put a telephone pole not to block the road but to slow down motorists because it’s too dusty.
Elbert Quitugua said his mother, who is turning 84 years old in the next few days and is now on a wheelchair, has been fighting for payment of her land for 20 years now.
He said due to accruing interests, the government now owes his mother over $100,000.
Elbert Quitugua said they are waiting from the CNMI Supreme Court’s decision in the government’s motion to stay Superior Court then-Associate Judge David A. Wiseman’s writ of execution order.
He said the Supreme Court heard the matter six to seven months ago, but has no decision yet.
Last May 17, the CNMI government sued the Quituguas for public nuisance, ejectment, and trespass. In addition to the complaint, the government filed a motion for ex parte TRO, motion for preliminary injunction, and notice of hearing to enjoin the Quituguas from impairing the movement of traffic through As Teo Road.
Ex parte motion refers to an application to the court by one of the parties to the action without the other party being present or heard.
In granting the government’s ex parte request for TRO, Kim-Tenorio said the government’s motion and oral arguments demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits for the causes of action.
Second, the judge pointed out, the threat of irreparable harm weighs in favor of granting the government’s motion.
Kim-Tenorio agreed that the Quituguas’ actions significantly impair traffic and increase the risk of collisions.
Specifically, Kim-Tenorio said, she is concerned with access emergency personnel such as ambulance and fire trucks and trash collection.
The judge said while the blockage does not completely prevent access, it significantly impairs or slows access to the neighboring houses, especially for larger vehicles that may be difficult to maneuver.
Kim-Tenorio recognized the potential risk of head on collisions, more so at night when vision may be limited.
Third, she said, the balance of harm weighs in favor of granting the government’s motion.
“Here, the potential risk to neighboring residents and potential liability to the Commonwealth is high,” she said.
In the contract, the judge pointed out, the only hardship defendants will face is removing the obstacles.
Fourth, Kim-Tenorio said, public interest weighs in favor of granting TRO.
Kim-Tenorio said the injunction ensures that the neighboring residents are not unduly burdened by the defendants’ actions.
She added that it also serves as a notice to defendants and others that self-help and potentially destructive methods of obtaining a judgment are not rewarded or acceptable.
Assistant attorney general Christopher Timmons is counsel for the government in this case.
It was not the first time that the Quituguas blocked the road in front of their houses in As Teo after the government allegedly failed to pay its use of a public road after more than three decades of promises.
In April 2012, upon Luisa Quitugua’s decision to shut down a 65-yard gravel portion of the Sta. Lourdes Road in As Teo, Elbert Quitugua put three road bunks and soil to block the road in front of their houses.
Motorists were diverted to use a small entrance of Luisa Quitugua’s property
In August 2005, then-Superior Court associate judge Wiseman ordered the government to pay Luisa Quitugua the remaining principal sum of $77,137 plus interest at 3 percent per annum and post judgment at 9 percent per annum in compensation for the two lots consisting of 348 and 364 square meters.