CNMI Judge Recuses Himself From Casino Lawsuit

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Camacho’s brother is a Representative that supported bill

By Andrew O. De Guzman

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 22, 2014) – Superior Court Judge Joseph N. Camacho yesterday recused himself from the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the month-old Saipan casino law as the Attorney General’s Office asked the court for a status conference to determine when attorney Ramon Quichocho’s first amended complaint will be filed.

In his one-page order of self-recusal, Camacho forwarded the case to Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja for reassignment.

During a status conference on May 16, 2014, Judge Camacho informed the parties that Rep. George N. Camacho is his brother, and that recusal may be required.

Rep. George N. Camacho is not listed as a party in this case, but he voted for the passage of the casino bill.

"On this sole and narrow issue, the undersigned judge recuses himself from this matter," Judge Camacho stated.

Also yesterday, Assistant Attorneys General David Lochaby, Reena Patel, and Teresita Sablan, who represent the CNMI government, the CNMI Lottery Commission, and Gov. Eloy S. Inos in his personal capacity, submitted a two-page joint request for a status conference.

The request came a day after Quichocho submitted his "suggestion of non-waivable conflict and illegal representation of defendant Inos, in his personal capacity, by the Attorney General’s Office; and notice of intent to file a first amended complaint; and a motion for preliminary injunction."

The government was due to submit a reply before May 26, 2014, and the motion will be heard on May 27.

Regarding Quichocho’s submitted suggestion and motion, the CNMI government said the "suggestion contains new matter not contained in [Quichocho’s] complaint."

Quichocho "proclaims his ‘intent’ to file a first amended complaint but does not file one, instead interjecting new ‘facts’ through the suggestion. [Quichocho] requests temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief at least partly based on the ‘facts’ alleged in the suggestion, and not those in the complaint," the government told the court.

Inos, the Lottery Commission, and the CNMI government, through the AGO, requested a status conference "to discuss an order setting a date for [Quichocho] to file an amended complaint, and the prompt resolution of the other new matters in the suggestion. Defendants aver that, considering the current procedural posture of the case (pre- service), some guidance is needed from the court to allay the possibility of duplicate and unnecessary briefing and expenditure of scarce resources on a moving target," court records show.

Quichocho has asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the defendants from further implementing the Saipan casino law including the ongoing probe by the hired investigators to determine the suitability of Best Sunshine International Ltd. and Marianas Star Entertainment Inc., the two casino exclusive license applicants.

Quichocho said policymakers were conflicted at the time they debated and approved the bill that became the Saipan casino law.

Another lawsuit was submitted by Glen D. Hunter through attorney Jennifer Dockter that asked the court to assess civil penalties on Senate President Ralph DLG Torres, Speakers Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, and Reps. Rafael S. Demapan and Felicidad T. Ogumoro for violations of the Open Government Act during the process that led to the enactment and subsequent amendment of the Saipan casino law.

Hunter’s lawsuit also includes as defendants Inos, the Lottery Commission and the CNMI government. Hunter is asking the court for an injunction to prevent the defendants from further implementing what he described as an "illegal casino law."

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