REPRESENTATIVE Celina R. Babauta filed a formal complaint Thursday with the NMI Bar Association against attorney Richard Miller of Pacific Lawyers LLC and Office of Governor General Counsel Gilbert Birnbrich.
Both are attorneys for Governor Ralph DLG Torres.
Babauta, who chairs the House Committee on Judicial and Government Operations, said the NMI bar association should “investigate and take disciplinary action in accordance with applicable NMI bar rules for the discipline of attorneys.”
In his letter to attorneys Catherine J. Cachero and Steven Pixley of the NMI bar association, Babauta alleges that on December 29, 2021, Miller deliberately engaged in ex parte communication with the Supreme Court CNMI when he asked to inappropriately a private meeting between Governor Torres and Chief Justice Alexandro Castro.
Babauta added: ‘Even more disturbing than the ex parte emails themselves, Mr. Miller’s attempt to meet with Chief Justice Castro, despite the existence of a Supreme Court order directing all matters relating to the appointment of the Honorable Timothy H. Bellas, as Judge pro tempore, to the clerk of the Superior Court, is reprehensible. Arranging a meeting between the Governor and the Chief Justice undermines the integrity of the legal proceedings initiated by the Governor when he filed a lawsuit against the JGO. It is punishable and Mr. Miller should face serious consequences, including, but not limited to, disbarment.
Babauta said that Miller, in a letter to Patrick Diaz, clerk of the Superior Court, asserted that “in light of the highly partisan atmosphere surrounding the ongoing dispute between the governor and the [House JGO] Committee, the Governor believes that no judge of the CNMI, current or former, can be truly apart from it nor, which is no less important, be perceived by the public, reasonably or not, like away from it.
Babauta said: “While he admits that there are no legal grounds for recusal or disqualification of Judge Pro Tempore Bellas or any other current or former judge or judge, Mr. Miller continues to slander every jurist in the history of the CNMI. As President of the JGO, I feel compelled to draw your attention to this serious breach of professionalism.
As for counsel to the Office of Governor Birnbrich, Babauta alleges that on January 7, 2022, Birnbrich issued a press release stating that she, as chair of the JGO, had issued false statements that amounted to “misrepresentation and false declarations” declarations made. by Governor Torres regarding the aforementioned ex parte emails from Mr. Miller.
“Mr. Birnbrich never once addressed the ex parte email himself,” Babauta said. “Instead, contrary to the plain text of the email, he said the Governor allegedly did not personally attend the meeting with the Chief Justice, essentially admitting the ex parte communication and potential ex parte meeting with the Chief Justice and downplaying the immorality. communication as if Governor Torres’ absence would somehow nullify Mr. Miller’s ex parte contact, on behalf of the Governor.
According to Babauta, “Birnbrich’s deliberate participatory attempts to deflect the gravity of the ex parte contact described above is further evidence of the attempts that Mr. Birnbrich will go on to engage in unlawful acts and conduct unbecoming an officer of sworn justice”.
Babauta said Birnbrich “also implied that I had placed a ‘partisan spin’ on issues related to the dispute over the governor’s investigation. On behalf of the JGO, as President, I take offense to these comments and wish to place my sentiment in the proper factual context.
Babauta said his committee “has quietly tolerated Mr. Birnbrich’s questionable conduct, both past and present.” Specifically, Department of Finance employees relied on his legal advice when they intentionally redacted original documents containing credit card number suffixes that were the subject of a JGO subpoena. The destruction of these public records, which technically constitute evidence in the context of our JGO investigation, was completely without legal justification and was purely done for the purpose of obstructing the JGO investigation. This happened entirely and completely under the legal supervision of Mr. Birnbrich.
Babauta said Birnbrich “has also continued to contact me directly, not through legal counsel, for periodic Open Government Act requests, even though he personally represents the CNMI Governor’s office in a lawsuit filed December 14, 2021 against the JGO Its OGA requests directed to me, as represented party, can reasonably be viewed as an ex parte attempt to acquire discovery information related to the ongoing lawsuit that he filed prematurely and inappropriately.
“As a result,” Babauta said, “based on the totality of the misconduct I have described above, namely: during the 2019 investigation into [Governor Torres] by the Special Committee established during the 21st Parliament, Mr. Birnbrich committed and admitted to unethical and inappropriate behavior in facilitating or advising the Department of Finance to redact original documents, as well as the manner in which he s behaved with regard to the aforementioned press release. ”
“His false and unsubstantiated allegations against me as chair of the JGO committee, essentially indulging in defamation and murder of my character, I respectfully file my formal complaint against Mr. Birnbrich,” Babauta added.
“In sum, I am certain that you understand and appreciate the magnitude of these allegations. When judicial officers commit such willful disregard for their oath and profession, they must be met with equal retribution to include disbarment, at the discretion of the CNMI bar association. The legal counsel assigned to the JGO have advised me that I may seek separate legal counsel to assist me in this matter, as these concerns are beyond the parameters of their terms of reference legal representation, and I am prepared to do so. They have warned me to be aware of the seriousness of the charges I have raised, but I have done my due diligence and remain convinced that it is the good course of action,” she said.