Saipan Development Motions To Avert Lawsuit In CNMI

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Legal counsel files for protection over ‘improper’ deposition order

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 17, 2012) – Saipan Development LLC has filed a motion to prevent two men associated with the firm from attending a deposition that, according to them, was filed prematurely in connection with a taxpayers' lawsuit on a sole-source $190.8-million power purchase agreement.

The plaintiffs – the Senate and Reps. Janet U. Maratita (Ind-Saipan) and Ray Anthony N. Yumul (IR-Saipan) – through counsel Ramon K. Quichocho opposed the motion by asserting that the Superior Court should not issue a protective order because Delaware-based Saipan Development LLC offers no valid grounds for such an order.

Kenneth Mahmood, adviser for SDLLC, and Jason Osborne, consultant for Allegiance Capital Corp., were subpoenaed to testify at a deposition on Dec. 17 and 18, respectively. The Delaware firm bagged the 25-year power purchase deal.

Deposition refers to a process of taking testimony of a witness outside of court.

In a motion for a protective order filed in court on Thursday, SDLLC counsel William M. Fitzgerald said the protective order is warranted as plaintiffs filed deposition notices in contravention of civil procedure rules.

Citing a previous case, the lawyer said the court found the plaintiffs' efforts to pursue written discovery premature because the parties had not agreed to conduct discovery; the court has not held an initial scheduling conference because of pending motions to dismiss; and the court had not entered a scheduling order.

In this case, Fitzgerald noted that a scheduling order has not been entered and that there is no agreement between the parties in this case for depositions or any discovery to be taken prior to the entry of a scheduling order.

"Plaintiffs' attempt to engage in premature discovery with the noticing of depositions is improper. This necessitates the issuance of a protective order to preclude plaintiffs' premature discovery," the lawyer added.

The two notices of deposition for Mahmood and Osborne were filed on Dec. 4, 2012.

In the plaintiffs' opposition to the motion filed Friday, Quichocho said the court should find that the notices of deposition and subpoenas to testify at a deposition are valid and in compliance with the Commonwealth Rules of Civil Procedure.

Quichocho said that SDLLC simply wants to delay the final resolution of the case and wants to make it as expensive as possible for the plaintiffs.

Quichocho said a protective order is not warranted because the motion is meritless.

He asserted that just because there is no order regarding the scheduling of discovery it does not mean that this case stops and plaintiffs are going to be forced to a standstill.

The Senate and Reps. Maratita and Yumul are suing Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham, Commonwealth Utilities Corp., and Saipan Development LLC.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the 25-year power purchase agreement is "unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable, and unjust, and therefore, cancelled."

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