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    Friday, April 20, 2018-4:15:50P.M.






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Assistant AG opposes motion to compel government to pay $18.7M in land compensation

ASSISTANT Attorney General Charles E. Brasington, representing the commonwealth government, opposed the motion for an order compelling the secretary of Finance to pay the heirs of Maria Mangabao the $18.7 million court judgment awarded in 2008 as compensation for taking their land in Chalan Kanoa in 1993.

Brasington said the court should instead set a status conference and deny or stay the motion to give the commonwealth time to formulate further plans for payment.

The Maria Mangabao estate stands to receive a substantial sum of land compensation that has been recently appropriated by the CNMI government, he said.

The Legislature is finally moving to right a historic wrong, namely its complete failure for over a decade to appropriate any significant amount for the payment of judgments, Brasington said.

But he added that the Mangabao estate is not the only judgment creditor of the commonwealth which cannot pay everyone at once.

The commonwealth does not have an unobligated $18 million sitting in its bank accounts, he added.

Citing a recent opinion issued by the CNMI Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Lot No. 218-5 R/W, 2016 MP 17, Brasington said the mechanisms that the local courts can use to compel payment must not interfere with basic government functions.

Recently, the CNMI Supreme Court held that when the government takes private property for public use and fails to compensate the landowners, commonwealth courts have the authority to order the government to pay land compensation judgments even in the absence of legislatively appropriated funds.

But according to Brasington, a status conference would be a much more appropriate and amicable vehicle for determining how the parties and the courts should move forward.

He said the Mangabao estate motion offers no suggestion as to how payment would or could be accomplished.

Brasington also pointed out that the current intervenors’ tactics in the estate may not be in their best interests in the long run.

The Mangabao intervenors/heirs are represented by attorneys Edward C. Arriola and Michael W. Dotts.

The Office of the Attorney General, Brasington said, is pleased with the high court’s decision in Lot No. 218 for several reasons, one of which is that the holding will help the AG’s office honor judgments to which it stipulates, and empowers the office to work with land compensation judgment creditors to find avenues of payment.

Brasington said rather than reacting to the Lot No. 218 opinion with despondence, many assistant attorneys general are encouraged.

He said even before the recent motion to compel, he was under the impression that the parties were amicably working together toward a mutually agreeable solution for payment, a welcome change from years of proceeding in an adversarial fashion and in light of the Lot No. 218 decision, it may even make such an agreement easier to implement.

But, he added, filing “numerous post-judgment motions, which require responses in calendar days, and do not take into account weekends, legal or religious holidays over the holiday period only threatened to reignite the flames of animosity that have, to the benefit of everyone involved, been extinguished.”

Brasington said the court should hold the motion to compel in abeyance and order a status conference (telephonically if necessary) at the parties’ earliest convenience.