Maratita’s CNMI Fund Settlement Intervention Opposed

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Maratita’s CNMI Fund Settlement Intervention Opposed Parties in Betty Johnson case say lawmaker’s motion ‘frivolous’

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Sept. 27, 2013) – All the parties in the Betty Johnson’s class action are opposed to Northern Marianas Rep. Janet Maratita’s request to intervene in the case and postpone the final hearing, saying the lawmaker’s motion "lacks coherent legal foundation, [is] untimely, and frivolous."

Johnson, the CNMI government, and the NMI Retirement Fund, through their respective lawyers, filed their opposition yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.

As this developed, Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb wrote U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Wednesday to ask her to consider two issues in the case: One, what legal authority exists to allow for defined benefit members to be included in a lawsuit without their affirmative actions or written authorization to "opt in"? Two, what legal authority is there to support the transfer of the employer/employee contributions of those like himself who opted out from the settlement agreement from the account of the Retirement Fund to the settlement agreement account?

Johnson, through counsels Robert M. Hatch, Bruce L. Jorgensen, and Stephen C. Woodruff, asked the court to deny the motion filed by Maratita and Jesus I. Taisague because it is untimely as they have known of this case since it was filed four years ago.

Johnson said Maratita and Taisague have known of the court’s stay order (stop the proceedings) since it was announced in the preliminary approval order entered on Aug. 6, 2013, and they have had notice of the deadlines for objections (Sept. 16, 2013) and opt outs (Sept. 20).

Johnson said the proposed intervenors have offered no excuse for missing these deadlines or failing to intervene earlier if they were legitimately interested in assisting in the pursuit of this action.

Johnson pointed out that the proposed intervenors lack standing because Taisague has requested exclusion and Maratita does not even claim to be a member of the class.

"Neither have standing to object to the settlement," she said.

Johnson said the two’s assertions that the constitutional rights of the class or the CNMI are impaired by the settlement are "plainly false because participation in the settlement is entirely voluntary, and constitutional rights may be voluntarily compromised."

Johnson said Maratita has not shown how the settlement "strips her of a legal claim or cause of action" so she lacks standing and her motion to intervene is frivolous.

Johnson said Maratita is a legislator, so it is inconceivable that she has not known of this case.

Assistant attorney general Reena J. Patel, on behalf of the CNMI government, asserted that both Maratita and Taisague failed to act diligently and timely.

Patel also noted that any delay in the implementation of the settlement agreement would wreck the payment schedule outlined in the agreement and will further strain the Fund’s financial health.

On Friday, Maratita and Taisague, through counsel Ramon K. Quichocho, asked the court to allow them to intervene in the case and postpone the Sept. 30, 2013, hearing, where it is expected to approve the settlement agreement in Johnson’s class action against the Fund and the CNMI government.

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