Justices dismiss Torres’ appeal of legislative subpoena order

If there were any question limiting Jim Kingman’s prosecution of Ralph Torres for illegally ignoring a binding subpoena to appear before a legislative tribunal in December 2021, two justices and a judge from Guam have answered it. 

Declaring that Mr. Torres’s appeal of a Superior Court of the CNMI decision now is moot, the pro tempore justices of the CNMI Supreme Court have dismissed the appeal, leaving the lower court decision in place. 

That decision states Mr. Torres had a legal obligation to appear as the subpoena commanded. 

That subpoena ordered the former governor to testify before the 22nd Commonwealth Legislature’s Judiciary and Governmental Operations committee in December 2021, which ended up presenting evidence to the full House of Representatives that led to the impeachment of the former governor. 

“I am thankful that the Supreme Court threw out the appeal filed by ex-governor Ralph Torres which means the ruling from Judge Pro Tempore, Timothy Bellas stands,” then-JGO committee chairwoman and now-Senator Celina Babauta said. “In the Bellas ruling, he ruled that the CNMI governor must comply with a legislative subpoena.”

Mr. Torres, who boldly claimed he had “nothing to hide,” fought the subpoena every step of the way, and has never addressed any of the evidence uncovered showing cronyism and corruption in his administration, except to tell some reporters he had done nothing wrong.

He failed twice to appear before the committee and to testify. The House charged him with contempt of the Legislature in its articles of impeachment forwarded to the Senate that charged him with breaking other CNMI laws, including several felonies. Mr. Kingman separately filed criminal charges against the former governor that somewhat match the legislative articles of impeachment.

Mr. Torres’ puppets in the Senate in 2022, three of whom continue to serve in office and at the time controlled the then-republican majority, ramrodded procedural maneuvers that made it nearly impossible for the House to prosecute the case before the Senate trial that eventually decided to acquit Mr. Torres of all charges. Had the Senate convicted Mr. Torres, he would have been removed from office, he would have been eternally barred from seeking public office in the Commonwealth, and the criminal case against him today would have been that much stronger.

The ongoing criminal case does not depend at all on the outcome of the civil case; however just as what occurred during the legislative tribunal, the governor’s lawyers have been using various arguments, including the outstanding civil proceedings, to delay the trial.

The current House of Representatives under the 23rd Commonwealth Legislature also has begun a new tribunal investigating Mr. Torres’ use of federal pandemic funds. Ms. Babauta said the court rulings further strengthen the legislature’s investigative powers.

“The JGO Committee won at the Superior Court and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal effectively declaring that the Torres argument wasn’t even worth their time. We won based on legislative immunity and that immunity is as strong, if not stronger today, given the dismissal,” she said.


  • Although I am daunted by the legalese and hyper-formality, I am happy that the judges recognised Torres as being a slippery snake.

    Wasn’t his trial slated for June?

    • Joaquin Romolor

        11/06/2023 at 12:49 PM

      The former Saipan Governor is Following Don who Is tangle up with all his legal troubles. It’s identical story but connected corruptions that will be playing out in US judicial System.

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