By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Saipan- Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro Castro has assigned Guam Superior Court Judge Alberto Tolentino to hear the criminal case filed by the Office of the Attorney General against CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
CNMI Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja and the four associate judges of the local Superior Court have recused themselves from the case against Torres, who is facing charges of misconduct in public office, theft and contempt.
The chief justice directed the justices and judges to file a motion to disqualify within 10 days from the date of the order should they believe that reasonable grounds exist for the judge pro tempore to be disqualified.
The motion shall state specifically the grounds for such disqualification, the chief justice added.
“Unless the motion to disqualify is granted, Judge Pro Tempore Alberto Tolentino shall have full authority to serve in this matter and shall carry out the duties and powers inherent with the appointment,” the chief justice said.
Tolentino assumed office on Sept. 10, 2021. His current term ends on 31 January 2029. He is a former magistrate judge of the Guam Superior Court and served as chief deputy attorney general in the Guam Office of the Attorney General.
Torres is scheduled to appear in court on April 18 for his arraignment.
Torres is facing 12 counts of misconduct in public office and one count of theft in connection with his and First Lady Diann Torres' government-funded off-island travels and related expenses in 2018 and 2019.
Torres is the first CNMI governor to be criminally charged while in office
The attorney general filed the case last week while the CNMI Senate drags its feet on the pending impeachment proceedings against Torres. At least six of the nine senators must vote to convict in order to remove the governor from office.
In a statement released later, the CNMI Office of the Governor said it has received a copy of the charges filed by the attorney general.