Guam Superior Court Judge Alberto Tolentino has been appointed as judge pro tempore in the criminal case filed by the office of the Attorney General against CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres, who is accused of misconduct in public office, theft and contempt.
CNMI Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja and the four associate judges of the local Superior Court have recused themselves from the case.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro Castro on Tuesday said under the authority of Article IV, Section 9 subsection (d) of the CNMI Constitution, “and in furtherance of the prompt and efficient dispatch of court business,” the chief justice may designate a judge pro tempore.
The chief justice also directed the parties 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.
A penal summons has directed Governor Torres to appear before the Superior Court on 18 April 2022.
The charges against the governor were among those mentioned in the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on 12 January 2022 by a vote of 15 to 4 with 1 abstention. The governor has denied the allegations. He will be removed from office if six of the nine senators vote for his conviction.