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Given the current provision in the Organic Act, the Guam Legislature may at its discretion repeal the law that created the Supreme Court of Guam or pass another law to reorganize the distribution of power within the judicial branch. Fortunately, there has been no move in that direction so far. Passage of H.R. 521 will ensure that the judicial branch of government on Guam cannot be subjected further to political power plays.
In this election year, the financial turmoil on Guam only highlights a government in chaos. The Governor and Legislature have been embroiled in constant battles, some of which have come before the courts for resolution. To its credit, the Supreme Court of Guam has remained focused on the law and not the politics of the cases it hears. The separation of powers was devised by the framers of the Constitution to prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist. The majority on Guam will determine who will be Governor and who will sit in the Legislature, the Courts however are bound by the rule of law and not majority rule. Therefore, it is even more imperative that Guam's courts be established as an independent third branch via the Organic Act and not local legislation.
I therefore respectfully submit this testimony in support of H.R. 521 and humbly request your vote in support as well
Re: TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 521
Dear Chairman Hansen:
Courts cannot exercise “co-equal" constitutional responsibilities unless they are given the necessary "co-equal" power to do so. The fair and impartial application of Guam and Federal laws cannot be assured so long as the jurisdiction of the courts of Guam remains under legislative control. Nor can the people of Guam be expected to exercise true self governance without “co-equal” branches of government. Nor can the Congress be said to have discharged its fundamental obligation to provide the people of Guam with the means to govern themselves unless and until all three branches established by the Organic Act of Guam have been properly constituted. H.R. 521 would properly constitute Guam's judicial branch by giving it the "co-equal" dignity it needs to effectively check and balance executive and legislative powers, prevent the tyranny of majority rule, protect constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and safeguard democracy.
In addition to giving Guam's Supreme Court an organic existence, it must be properly equipped to ensure the orderly administration of justice. The judicial branch in Guam should not consist of two separately governed court systems. It does today only because a coalition of local legislators has sought to influence judicial policy-making. As a result, the administration of justice has been politicized. The Judicial Council, whose voting members include partisan legislative and executive officials, should be abolished and a single, unified court system established with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam as its head.
For these reasons, I urge the Committee on Resources to act favorably on H.R. 521.
Very tray yours,
Oliver Weston Bordallo
cc: The Honorable Robert A. Underwood
[A letter and supporting documents submitted for the record by Peter C. Siguenza, Jr., et al., Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Guam, follow:]
SUPREME COURT OF GUAM
Suite 300 Ghus Judicial Center, 120 Weel OBrien Drive, Hagåtña, Guem 96910-5174
Website: www.justice.gov.gu/supreme •
March 20, 2002
Honorable Antonio R. Unpingco
Speaker, Twenty Sixth Gusm Legislature 155 Healer St. Liheslaturan Guahan
Haghtfa, Guam 96910
Dear Mr. Speaker:
This letter is prompted by a series of logal events which has altered the structure of the local court system and has created issues pertaining to the administration of the courts. In light of the need for judicial independence and unification, we believe that the outstanding administrative issues which have boca recently created should be handled by the courts. This letter is submitted to inform you of the zotions currently being taken by the Supreme Court, as the head of the judicial branch of government. We write you in the interest of securing support for our pursuit of a unified judiciary.
In January of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision affirming a ruling by Guam's highest court which invalidated P.L. 24-139, the so-called "Garbage Bill." P.L. 24-139 removed. the statutory status of the Supreme Court as head of the local judiciary and created a system of dualmanagement, conferring upon the Judicial Council powers specifically relating to the administration of the Superior Court. Last week the Ninth Circuit issued an orda denying further review of the case. By this order, the Ninth Circuit effectively relinquished jurisdiction over the case and sustained its January decision that P.L. 24-139 is invalid.
As a result of the Guam Supreme Court and Ninth Circuít decisions, the law that existed prior to the enactment of P.L. 24-139 as it pertains to the Quam judiciary is now the current state of the law. Specifically, the Guam Supreme Court is restored to the position as head of the local Judiciary, with supervisory jurisdiction over the courts of Guam,
Furthermore, the powers granted to the Judicial Counoil in P.L. 24-139 are no longer in effect as a result of the recent court rulings. The Judicial Council is now mainly an advisory body, whose powers over both the Superior Court and Supreme Courts' administrative matters are limited to issues regarding personnel, compensation, and the Judicial Building Fund. A void therefore exists with regard to the powers formerly exercised by the Judicial Council over all other administrative issues. A concern similarly exists with regard to the validity of the Judicial Council's past actions. Specifically, the Staff Attorney of the Superior Court articulated concerns in his various motions to the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court that the actions of the Judicial Council since February 7, 1998 may be void due to the invalidation of P.L. 24-139.
Honorable Antonio R. Unpingco
Speaker, Twenty Sixth Guarn Legislature
March 20, 2002
Morcover, as competition for limited financial resources intensifies, the recent court events present a unique opportunity for the island's courts to review operations and curtail duplication and waste within the judicial branch. We believe that now is the time for us to actively work together within this braach towards greater fiscal efficiency and accountability.
lo light of our supervisory role over the courts of Guana, and considering the current need for fiscal responsibility, the Supreme Court, sitting en banc, has formed Guarn's' Unified Judiciary Coranitico consisting of the Chief Justice of Guam, the two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, one Superior Court judge selected by the remaining judges, and the administrators of both courts. A copy of the Promulgation Order is attached for your information, The Committee will handic administrative issues pertaining to both the Supreme and Superior Courts not within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Council and will review certain prior actions taken by the Judicia! Council in efforts to minimize the Superior Court's exposure to liability.
Judicial independence is the benchmark of a tri-partate system of government. With this prisciple in mind, we respectfully request that you and your colleagues respect and support our initiativos and afford us the opportunity to resolve further issues pertaining to the judicial branch without external interference. We are certain that our goal of establishing and operating & unified judiciary that is administratively efficient and fiscally nocountabic is worthwhile and in the public interest.
ORDER PROMULGATING THE RULES GOVERNING THE ANNUAL
The Supreme Court of Guam, as the highest court of the Territory, possesses supervisory authority over all local courts of Chuam and is the proper body to review, approve and submit the 12 unified annual budget for the Judiciary to the Guam Legislature. See 7 GCA §5101, COMMENT; 13 See Also, 7 GCA §2101, COMMENT; 7 GCA § 3107(b).
Before the creation of the Supreme Court, the budget for the Superior Court was approved 15 by the Judicial Council. However as set forth at 7 GĊA §5102 and consistent with the doctrine of 16 the separation of powers, the Judicial Council is currently a non-governing advisory body. Any 17 prior grants of power given the Judicial Council as contained in the Code of Civil Procedure and 18 elsewhere were repealed expressly by 7 GCA §1115 or implicitly by operation of law when the 19 Supreme Court of Guam certified its readiness to hear appeals on July 16, 1996.
Pursuant to the inherent powers of the Supreme Court, 7 GCA §§ 3102, 3107 and 7117 and 21 the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over all lower courts, the annual budget of the Judiciary 22 shall be reviewed and approved by the Supreme Court in accordance with the rules set forth below.
No later than a date designated annually by the Chief Justice, the Administrative Director of the Superior Court shall submit a draft budget proposal on behalf of that court to the Executive Officer of the Supreme Court
Prior to the submission of the draft Superior Court budget to the Executive Officer, the Administrative Director shall provide a copy to each Superior Court judge and shall present such budget proposal to the Judges for review, comments and recommendations.