AG’s office:  Federal court should not intervene in PSS lawsuit

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THE CNMI Office of the Attorney General  said the federal court “should not inject itself in the dispute between the [Commonwealth] government” and the Public School System.

PSS has sued the CNMI government, saying it did not provide the school system the constitutionally required 25% of the general government revenues in fiscal year 2020.

But according to the CNMI government, PSS was allotted 25.3% of the total local revenue and resources available for appropriation in FY 2020.

For its part, the Settlement Fund said PSS actions in seeking payment from amounts appropriated to the Settlement Fund violates the Settlement Agreement.

Deputy Attorney General Lillian A. Tenorio disagrees.

She said, “The Commonwealth’s obligations under the Settlement Agreement are unaffected by the PSS lawsuit filed in Superior Court.”

In that lawsuit, the CNMI government is represented by the AG’s office.

Tenorio said the issue of the PSS budget is presently being litigated in the Superior Court, and the  payment obligations of the Commonwealth to the Settlement Fund are not in dispute.

She said the Settlement Agreement was intended “to provide the Commonwealth with litigation peace, resolve pending issues, and provide a workable budget plan for paying the retirees’ pension.”

The motion of the Settlement Fund to enforce judgment against PSS, she added, “is contrary to the intent of the Settlement Agreement based on the speculative possibility that the Commonwealth will not make payments to the Settlement Fund because of the PSS lawsuit.”

If the federal court were to grant the motion, Tenorio said, “it would pave the way for the Settlement Fund to file motions for a wide variety of speculative threats to their payments under the Settlement Agreement.”

She added,  “The Settlement Fund’s theory undercuts the Settlement Agreement by undermining the terms of the agreement itself and the litigation peace it was supposed to have brought to the parties.”

The Settlement Fund, through attorney Nicole M. Torres-Ripple, has asked the District Court for the NMI for an order enforcing the final judgment approving the class action settlement agreement against PSS.

The Settlement Fund requests the court to issue an order declaring that: (1) PSS is not entitled to 25% of the Settlement Fund Revolving Fund and the amounts appropriated for the 25% Benefit Payments appropriated under 4 CMC § 1803 because these amounts are constitutionally and contractually obligated payments under Article III, Section 20(a) of the CNMI Constitution and the Settlement Agreement; and (2) PSS actions in seeking payment from amounts appropriated to the Settlement Fund violates the Settlement Agreement.

Last week, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho approved the motion of the Settlement Fund to intervene in the PSS lawsuit, but denied its motion for stay.






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