25 Apr 2017
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
DEPARTMENT of Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson has indicated that she is satisfied with the representation she is receiving from the Office of the Attorney General in the taxpayer lawsuit filed against her.
Larson is the remaining defendant in the lawsuit filed by private taxpayer John Del Rosario over the release of $400,000 in government funds to Luta Mermaid/MV Luta.
Judge Pro Tempore Timothy Bellas earlier ruled that the co-defendant, then-senator and now Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog, had legislative immunity and was dismissed from the court proceedings.
During a hearing in Superior Court on Friday, Larson was represented by Deputy Attorney General Lillian A. Tenorio and Assistant Attorney General Charles Brasington while attorney Jennifer Dockter appeared on behalf of Del Rosario.
In an order after the hearing, Judge Pro Tempore Bellas said Tenorio and Brasington can continue to represent Larson in the lawsuit because the Finance secretary indicated that she is satisfied with the representation she is receiving, and because the government lawyers have assured the court that precautions have been taken to ensure that their representation is separated from other case matters in the AG’s office — which is also suing Larson in her official capacity over a government pay-hike law.
The court order likewise noted the possibility of mediation, adding that the parties wanted additional time to determine whether mediation was a viable option.
Judge Pro Tempore Bellas said if the parties file a stipulation that they believe that the case would benefit from mediation, then the case-management conference will be vacated.
If such a stipulation is filed, he said the parties must “state a date by which such mediation shall be accomplished and submit a proposed order to that effect.”
Del Rosario, through Dockter, raised a conflict of interest regarding the AG’s continued representation of Larson in the lawsuit, stating that the AG is taking positions which were at odds with the best interests of the Finance secretary.
In her brief, Dockter stated that it seemed that the AG was preparing to throw Larson under the proverbial bus.
“Now, the [Office of the] AG has actually brought suit against its own client, alleging the exact same set of facts that Del Rosario has alleged.”
According to Dockter, it is inconceivable that the AG can both vigorously and zealously defend Larson in this matter and turn around and sue her based on the same set of facts.
“The resources of the same law firm (the AG’s) are being used to both defend and prosecute the same person based on the same set of facts. It is preposterous,” Dockter added.
The AG’s office, she said, has taken this situation to a whole new level of absurdity by asserting opposite positions against its own clients.
“Did the [Finance] secretary act lawfully or didn’t she? Because the AG cannot have it both ways. If Ms Larson acted unlawfully in paying the lt. governor’s family business $400,000 as alleged by the AG, then why are they [the AG’s office] defending her actions in this matter?”
In their opposing brief, the Office of the AG said it can represent the Finance secretary because Tenorio and Brasington are “screened” from the AG, Edward Manibusan, and the AG does not supervise the litigation decisions in this case.
Tenorio and Brasington said representation by the Office of the AG is required by the CNMI Constitution, and “as such, the application of conflict analysis must be attorney-specific.”
They said the assistant AG’s assigned to represent the Finance secretary in this case are “representing the agency unfettered and uninfluenced by the attorney general’s personal opinion.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/94741-court-ag-s-office-will-continue-to-represent-larson-in-john-del-rosario-lawsuit