Dear CRA Directors and other interested retirees:
I can only echo Angie Sill’s comments endorsing Betty Johnson’s suggestions to the CRA Board of Directors. I would like to add that it is my understanding that Attorney Steve Woodruff has also been associated to serve as local CNMI counsel in the John Doe/Jane Roe case.
The existing John Doe/Jane Roe case was filed in the Federal District Court on Saipan several years ago and it was immediately opposed by the NMIRF’s attorneys for reasons that have never made any sense to me as the primary purpose of the case was to have the $231 million judgment awarded by Judge Govendo in June , 2009 enforced/collected in the Federal District Court .
For reasons stated below, it should have been embraced by the NMIRF! Instead, the NMIRF trustees , probably acting under advice of their attorneys , chose to oppose such efforts , claiming that such action and appointment of a receiver answerable to a Federal District Court Judge would lead to a reduction or loss of retirees’ benefits or , worse yet , liquidation of assets.The fear mongering appears to have paid off for as no meaningful damages have been collected , NMIRF lawyers have been paid handsomely to attend status conferences and the original amount of the judgment has ballooned to over $300 million. Given the current assets of the NMIRF, this is a staggering amount which could keep the NMIRF afloat for the next several years , until a permanent solution is found.
The Federal District Court still has the advantage of experience , better access to specialized resources in this particular area of law and finance (including the US Marshal) and is not constrained by local , CNMI laws/requirements which have rendered enforcement impossible. For example, the arguments that a judgment against the CNMI Government could only be paid/satisfied by an appropriation from the CNMI Legislative Branch and that the CNMI Superior Court has limited or no authority to seize real and/or personal property of the CNMI Government to enforce its own judgment will have little or no impact upon a Federal District Court Judge.
Judge Alex Munson in January of 2010 delayed his ruling on the transfer for sixty days or so in order to defer to the CNMI Superior Court’s jurisdiction and to give it an opportunity to actively pursue collection of damages. Without any public debate , the NMIRF and its attorneys appealed the tentative ruling of Judge Munson and put the Doe/Roe Case on hold for approximately a year and one half.
Last year , oral arguments on the appeal by the NMIRF were heard in Honolulu before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on a Friday and a written decision denying all of the claims made by the NMIRF’ attorney was rendered on the following Monday. The recent action of the Federal Bankruptcy Judge reminded me of the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals , except for the fact that the Judge in the Bankruptcy matter rendered an informal opinion denying the legal arguments of the same NMIRF attorney and his law school classmate BEFORE oral arguments were even made . It is most unusual to lose that badly once , but two times in less than a year is really astounding! What really hurts is that we retirees , through the actions of the Board of Trustees , continue to pay outrageous legal fees for bad results.
Setting aside the recent decision of the Governor to issue an Emergency Declaration transferring the powers and duties of the NMIRF to the Secretary of Finance for the moment , it is imperative that the CRA Directors assess the situation we retirees now find themselves in and come up with some sensible solutions.
The most obvious , sensible solution and one which could provide the retirees with a fairly substantial revenue stream is to join ranks with Attorneys Jorgensen , Bronster , Hatch , Woodruff and finally collect some of the damages awarded by Judge Govendo three years ago! It may take a while, but we have to take the first step and I believe that this approach is practical and workable.
The NMIRF may have actually assisted us in the collection when it attempted to transfer the 2009 Govendo Judgment to the Federal District Court’s Bankruptcy Division for collection purposes and filed several actions in the same court against autonomous agencies who had not remitted employer contributions. These actions suggest that the Trustees are no longer opposed to having such matters decided by the Federal District Court.
As many of you may know , I was involved in the John Dow/Jane Row lawsuit , but had to disengage quite a while ago for health reasons. Using Betty Johnson’s analogy , I would like to assure you that I do not ” have a dog in this hunt.”
Respectfully submitted by a concerned retiree who dearly misses the CNMI and its People,
David L. Price