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    Monday, December 18, 2017-6:30:53P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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NMI gov’t says court should dismiss poker lawsuit

THE CNMI government, the Zoning Board and its chairman have asked the federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two poker arcade operators over the implementation of Saipan Local Law 18-5 or the Saipan Adult Machine Business Zoning Law of 2013.

The lawsuit was originally filed in the CNMI Superior Court but was moved to the District Court for the NMI by the Office of the Attorney General. According to the AG’s office, because the case involves due-process rights, and because one of the investors’ immigration status hinges on the result of the case, the federal court’s expertise is necessary.

Saipan Local Law 18-5 mandates the relocation of poker arcades to designated commercial zoning districts and at least 200 feet away from churches, public and private schools, parks or playgrounds.

The plaintiffs are Sin Ho Nam, principal shareholder of Winnerslife Inc./Sin Ho Development Inc., and Dan Bi Choi LLC. They are represented by attorney Robert T. Torres.

The CNMI government, through Christopher Timmons, the chief of the Office of the AG’s civil division, said alleged damages are prematurely claimed by the lawsuit.

He said the lawsuit is not ripe because no enforcement action has been initiated.

Timmons also said that the claims should be denied because the plaintiffs are seeking relief from two bodies: the Zoning Board and the court.

The plaintiffs filed suit before receiving any determination from the Zoning Board, Timmons added.

In other words, he said, the plaintiffs are presently engaged in their administrative remedies and have not exhausted them.

Moreover, Timmons said, the plaintiffs sued a non-suable entity without the capacity to sue or be sued.

The plaintiffs also improperly named the Zoning Board as a defendant, Timmons added.

But according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert T. Torres, there is no administrative remedy in the zoning law or the Administrative Procedure Act that addresses the direct and immediate threat to Sin Ho Nam’s immigration status.

Torres said there is no administrative remedy or rule to address the property deprivation resulting from the inability to sell or transfer gaming machines.

There also is no administrative remedy that allows for additional time to locate to an alternative property when the market conditions have increased the price of suitable properties five-fold, Torres added.

He said the balance of hardship tips heavily in favor of the plaintiffs, adding that the Zoning Board faces no hardship should enforcement of the zoning law be temporarily restrained.

In contrast, the plaintiffs face the loss of their investment, their livelihood, and immigration status, their lawyer said.