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Last updateSat, 21 Oct 2017 12am

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    Saturday, October 21, 2017-1:37:55P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

NMI high court dismisses appeal under Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine

(Press Release) — On Sept. 21, 2017, the CNMI Supreme Court dismissed Antipas Rupurei’s appeal of the Superior Court’s order directing him to pay restitution to the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation.

In 2008, the trial court sentenced Rupurei to six months of probation and to pay restitution to CUC for damaging a telephone pole. The amount of restitution, however, was to be determined at a later date. When the time came to determine the restitution amount, the court, unaware CUC submitted a billing to the Office of the Public Defender, found CUC had not provided any documentation regarding the restitution amount and thereby dismissed the restitution claim against Rupurei. Subsequently, the commonwealth asked the court to reconsider the dismissal arguing that CUC had in fact submitted proof. Finding good cause to reconsider the order dismissing the claim, the trial court scheduled a hearing.

At the scheduled hearing, however, the matter was continued to another date without any objections from Rupurei. By this time, Rupurei’s probation was set to expire the following day. Soon thereafter, Rupurei left the commonwealth unannounced.

The trial court ordered Rupurei to pay restitution to CUC, and counsel appealed the trial court’s order arguing, among other things, the court lacked jurisdiction to order restitution because Rupurei’s probationary period had expired when the order was issued. Thereafter, the parties agreed to stay the appeal pending return of Rupurei to the commonwealth. In 2016, because the appeal had languished for over seven years, the Supreme Court lifted the stay and ordered the parties to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. The fugitive disentitlement doctrine provides that courts may dismiss a case against a defendant who has fled the jurisdiction to avoid judicial action.

The CNMI Supreme Court stated it had the “inherent authority to dismiss an appeal brought by a defendant who is considered a fugitive...[and it is] unwilling to waste time and resources exercising jurisdiction over litigants who will only comply with favorable rulings of the court.” Because Rupurei agreed to continue the hearing; knew the restitution claim against him was pending at the time he left the commonwealth; and to date, has not returned to the commonwealth for more than eight years, the CNMI Supreme Court determined it was appropriate to dismiss his appeal under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine.