As expected, after listening to Jeremy Coffee, the attorney for the NMIRF, request that Bankruptcy be allowed to continue, Judge Faris still dismissed the case.
The notes below are not an official transcript and based solely on recollection. they may contain some errors. Here are the points as I recalled them (please correct me if needed):
- Attorney for the Fund, Jeremy Coffee of Brown & Rudnick, was given an opportunity to present his argument as to why the Bankruptcy Case should NOT be dismissed.
- During Coffee’s presentation the Judge asked a few questions and made some statements:
- When arguing that the Fund was not serving a government function Coffee said that employees remit their personal money to the fund. The Judge qualified this by asking Coffee if the employee payments were voluntary or mandatory. Coffee responded that they were mandatory.
- When arguing that the Fund was not serving a traditional function the Judge reminded Coffee that the function is explicitly written into the CNMI Constitution.
- when Coffee told the Judge that the case had to remain in bankruptcy court in order for the debtor to utilize the special tools available to help collect money owed from the government, Judge Faris asked Coffee, “what special tools and powers he thought that the Bankruptcy Courts had that would aid in collection of outstanding judgement against the Government?” The judge was not aware of any special powers that would have to aid in collection of debts to the debtor. Coffee had no specific answer but mentioned something about the hope that it would have been possible.
- After Coffee was done, the Judge opened the floor to ANYONE that was present that would like to speak out in favor of NOT dismissing the lawsuit. Ruth Tighe took the podium and stated that she was in favor for these reasons:
- Allow Restructuring benefits
- Remove from local interference
- Prevent liquidation
- Collect on the Judgement
- After listening to both Coffee and Tighe, the Judge verbally granted the Dismissal of the Petition for Bankruptcy by the NMIRF.
- A request was made by Attorney M Bronster, attorney for the Roe/Doe plaintiffs, for Faris to reconsider his statement made in the Tentative Dismissal Ruling in which he stated that only recourse lies with the local government. Bronster pointed out that on-going litigation in Federal Court is still active and a very viable path towward remedy outside of the local government. Faris agreed and said he will reword it as to not exclude Federal Court remedies outside of Federal Bankruptcy Court.
- Coffee requested that Professional Agreements be discussed. Faris granted this.
- All parties agreed to the retention of the Fund Attorneys (Coffee and Huesman) and the Actuary, Buck Consultants through pre and post petition.
- Gelber objected to Huesman being allowed to collect fees without overview from Bankruptcy Court as he requested. I didn’t fully understand what Gelber was requesting in full detail so click here for his filed Docket 109 on the Huesman matter and the role he will play.
- I believe all attorneys will have to process fee payment requests through the Bankruptcy Court.
- Coffee asked for the Judge to sit on his Order of Dismissal in order to give Brown Rudnick time to discuss future steps, including the possibility of appeal, with their client (the Fund). And, the Judge responded that there would be a period of time before his actual written Order is out and he mentioned “14 days” or so. I’d like retirees to understand that things remain as they are at least for the 14 days the Judge mentioned.
- Before ending the Judge stated that the way the government has treated the Fund is shameful. He was also appalled after reading in our local news that active employees were even attempting to withdraw money from the NMIRF. He found that just as shameful.
If you were in court and would like to clarify any points above or add to them please email the site. No recorders were allowed and I had to write this from memory.
More to come.