Ex-PSS chief says lawsuit can’t be moved to US court

CITING the provisions of her contract, former Education Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero said her lawsuit against the Board of Education members in their official capacities cannot be moved to the District Court for the NMI.

Deleon Guerrero sued the BOE members for wrongful termination, breach of contract, and violating her constitutional rights.

Though her counsel Brien Sers Nicholas, Deleon Guerrero has asked the federal court to remand her complaint to the CNMI Superior Court.

Sers Nicholas said Deleon Guerrero’s contract with the Public School System stated that “[a]ny action brought for the enforcement of this contract [i.e., plaintiff’s employment contract] shall be brought in the courts of the CNMI.”

He added, “The defendants should not have attempted to remove this case to federal court.”

Sers Nicholas said “by agreement, this lawsuit must be litigated in the Superior Court of the CNMI.”

Deleon Guerrero, he added, was mandated to file her lawsuit only in the local court. The defendants likewise are mandated to defend themselves in Superior Court, and have no objectively reasonable basis in seeking removal of the case, Sers Nicholas added.

He asked the federal court to issue an order requiring the defendants to pay costs and actual expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, incurred as a result of the removal.

Tiberius D. Mocanu, PSS legal counsel, filed the notice of removal on Friday, stating that the complaint alleged a federal question, violation of federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution.

He also submitted a notice that the CNMI government will be substituted as defendant in the lawsuit.

Mocanu noted that the CNMI attorney general on Feb. 22, 2018 certified that the BOE members had acted within the scope of their employment that led to the lawsuit.

But Deleon Guerrero has indicated that she will oppose the substitution of the defendants for the commonwealth.

Deleon Guerrero in her lawsuit demanded a jury trial for all counts in the complaint. She has asked the court to award her compensatory and punitive damages against the individual board members in an amount to be proven at trial.

She also asked for compensatory damages against the board in the amount of $350,000; and for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of suit; and any and all other remedies the court may find just and equitable.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the five elected members of the BOE voted to terminate Deleon Guerrero’s contract without cause. Her employment contract, which was signed in 2016, allowed for termination without cause upon the positive vote of the BOE members.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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