Judge Munson's Decision: No dismissal for 3 trying to enter Guam illegally

February 18, 2010

U.S. District Court Judge Alex Munson ruled on the motion by three of the twenty-four charged on January 5, 2010 with attempting to enter the United States illegally. Attorneys for defendants Yong Jun Li, Shinguang Li and Weikun Zhong asked for the case against their clients to be dismissed. The attorneys argued that "because the CNMI is a part of the United States for immigration purposes their travel was within the United States and cannot be deemed "illegal entry."

Judge Munson disagreed citing the fact that the CNRA provides for a transition period to U.S. immigration which is currently in effect. From the Order:
This Court has previously held that the CNMI was not considered "part of the United States for purposes of United States immigration laws" because United States immigration laws did not apply to the CNML United States v. Ye, 2004 WL 1810575, *4 (N.M.I. 2004) (citing Covenant § 503). On June 1,2009, the United States Congress passed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of2008 ("CNRA") which makes the United States immigration laws applicable to the CNML Defendants rely on the CNRA in arguing that the CNMI is now a part of the United States for immigration purposes and travel between Saipan and Guam cannot be considered "illegal entry." However, the CNRA provides a transition period (that we are currently in) wherein, among other exceptions, the United States asylum laws do not apply within the CNMI and certain aliens may be legally present in the CNMI that would not otherwise be admissible in the United States. 48 U.S.C. §§ 1806(a)(7), (b)-(e). As such, although the CNRA seeks to eventually make the CNMI "a part of the United States for immigration purposes," the transition period exceptions require the conclusion that the CNMI is not yet fully a part ofthe United States for immigration purposes. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss are DENIED.
The judge also denied their motion for a bill of particulars "because the allegations put Defendants on notice of the charges against them and protect them against double jeopardy."

The motion for additional discovery was in part denied, and in part granted. From the Order:
Defendants move for additional discovery. The Court rules as follows:
1. The government shall provide all translation/transcription drafts of audio recordings, if any;
2. The government shall provide Defendants with the report documenting the January 5, 2010 conversation;
3. The government is NOT required to provide the requested agent guidelines for the reasons stated in the Government's Addendum to Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Alternatives and because Defendants have not provided
reasonable justification for the information
The U.S. Government's Addendum to Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss filed with the Court on February 17, 2010 outlines the policy and sensitivity of ICE investigations. The addendum clearly states that revealing the requested agent guidelines "could disrupt ongoing investigations and actually compromise or negate the very objectives of the ICE enforcement mission." It also stated that disclosing the information could reveal the identity of special agents "who are engaged in such techniques."

The Addendum states:
The Undercover Operations Handbook is law enforcement sensitive, contains privileged information, and may not be released. Law enforcement operations cannot be effective if conducted in full public view. The internal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Manual and operational documents being sought contain information describing how ICE carries out investigations, including ICE’s use of law enforcement techniques not generally known to the public. The agency consistently asserts the law enforcement privilege in response to requests for these types of internal documents.
Congressman Sablan Submits Names for NMI Federal Judge
With Federal Judge Alex Munson resigning effective February 28, 2010, Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan has submitted two names, one male and one female, to the White House with his recommendations for a replacement.

According to the Saipan Tribune:
District court judges are appointed by the U.S. president, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate to 10-year terms or until a successor is chosen and qualified.

Sablan said the two are “residents of the CNMI” but couldn't say whether they are currently government or private lawyers. He didn't say whether they are indigenous CNMI residents.

“I prefer that it is someone from the Northern Mariana Islands. I also think that we need to start promoting our people here. We have many qualified individuals here, some of them happen to be Chamorros and Carolinians,” he said.
The Marianas Variety stated that the Congressman said that both nominations were "of Northern Marianas-descent."

Judge Munson has served as a judge in the CNMI since he was appointed in 1982 to serve as chief justice for the high court of the Trust Territory. President Reagan nominated Judge Munson to be chief judge for the U.S. District Court of the NMI in 1988. He was re-appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton for another 10 year term.

Congressman Sablan also said that he will also ask the federal government to consider establishing federal law enforcement officials exclusively for the CNMI including a U.S. Attorney, a Public Defender and a U.S. Marshal.


Anonymous said...

The CNRA was enacted May 8, 2008 rather than the June 1, 2009 date of Munson's opinion.

Anonymous said...

While both Ramona V. Manglona and Miguel S. Demapan tend to be overly political in their jurisprudence, Judge Manglona is generally less so.

Chief Justice Demapan has a real vindictive streak.

Anonymous said...

It's Alex Castro, not Miguel Demapan, who is the second person being vetted.

Anonymous said...

Justice Castro would make a great district court judge.

I hope the Hillblom case does not cause him too much problems with vetting, especially where he awarded a "bonus" to a law clerk out of estate funds.

He generally has great common sense, a good instinct for right and wrong, and most importantly, experience.