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  • The San Juan Daily Star

CPI asks US Supreme Court to uphold ruling against fiscal board’s immunity claim

The motion filed by the Center for Investigative Journalism before the U.S. Supreme Court contends, among other things, that the Financial Oversight and Management Board’s entire existence is constitutional only because of Puerto Rico’s territorial status.

By The Star Staff

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CPI by its Spanish initials) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court ruling that found that the Financial Oversight and Management Board cannot claim sovereign immunity to avoid lawsuits such as one seeking documents.

The CPI sued the oversight board for documents related to its fiscal oversight of Puerto Rico, but the board did not provide all of them. The board then argued that the CPI could not sue because the board has sovereign immunity, just like the states and the federal government. The CPI has prevailed in the courts so far.

“State sovereign immunity belongs to States. And Territories are not States,” a CPI motion filed this week argues. “Those constitutional truisms preclude the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico -- which Congress designated as part of Puerto Rico’s territorial government -- from invoking state sovereign immunity to avoid suits in federal court. The statute at issue, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), applies only to territories and creates a territory-specific judicial-review regime that envisions myriad actions against the Board.”

The motion notes that Congress installed the oversight board as the regent controlling Puerto Rico’s laws and fiscal affairs, and the board routinely blocks Puerto Rico’s governors and legislatures from enacting laws. The board’s entire existence, not to mention the vast powers the board wields over millions of Puerto Rico citizens, is constitutional only because of Puerto Rico’s territorial status, the motion contends.

The motion notes that PROMESA, which created the oversight board, grants it extraordinary powers to countermand Puerto Rico governors and legislatures, but prescribes a detailed judicial review scheme channeling all litigation against the board to specific federal courts to impose basic checks on the board’s powers.

“PROMESA did not extinguish Puerto Rico citizens’ right to hold the most powerful element of Puerto Rico’s government accountable, least of all to vindicate the fundamental right of access to information enshrined in Puerto Rico’s Constitution,” the motion notes.

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