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[A statement from The Hon. Thomas C. Ada, Senator, 26th Guam Legislature, submitted for the record on H.R. 521 follows:]
Statement of The Honorable Thomas C. Ada, Senator,
26th Guam Legislature Mr. Chairman and members of the House Resources Committee, thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony in support of H.R. 521, to clarify, once and for all, that a truly classic, republican form of government, with three, separate but equal branches of government, will indeed exist for the people of Guam.
First introduced in the 105th Congress as part of a bill that addressed other judicial matters pertaining to Guam, the judicial structure issue became mired in a lawsuit in Guam. At the start of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on that case, and in doing so, affirmed the authority of the Supreme Court of Guam, saying, “The Organic Act, as we have recognized, 'serves the function of a constitution for Guam' and the congressional promise of independent institutions of government would be an empty one if we did not recognize the importance of the Guam Supreme Court's role in shaping the interpretation and application of the Organic Act."
The Organic Act of Guam of 1950 created the legislative and executive branches of a civilian government for Guam, which had been under military rule since 1899. The Organic Act clearly delineated the powers and authority of the legislative and executive branches of the newly established Government of Guam, but the judicial branch was left to evolve and develop in fits and starts over the years, with jurisdiction and authority residing initially and completely with the Federal courts. Over the years, the Organic Act has been amended to fulfill the "congressional promise of independent institutions of government,” In 1968, the Act was amended to provide for an elected governor; in 1972 for a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives; in 1986 to provide for an elected school board; and most recently, in 1998, to provide for an elected attorney general. The original version of the elected attorney general bill, now Public Law 105–291, included the judicial structure clarification.
In comparison to its counterparts, the growth and development of the judicial branch of the Government of Guam has been a slow and laborious process and continues to this day. Guam's judicial structure must be clarified and clearly established, and its powers delineated under the Organic Act. Through its inclusion in the Organic Act, the foundation of the Supreme Court will be accorded the same protection from the political machinations that so besiege its counterparts. As a creation of local law, the Supreme Court of Guam remains vulnerable to the whims of the legislative branch. Until and unless it is firmly embedded in the Organic Act, the Supreme Court of Guam is not, cannot, will not be a separate and co-equal branch of the Government of Guam. And that condition, no matter how eloquently defended, is in direct contradiction of the “congressional promise of independent institutions of government” and the ideals of self-government.
The doctrine of the separation of powers, with its underlying system of checks and balances, is the fundamental principle of our democratic form of government and cannot be subject to reinterpretation or politically motivated redefinition. Passage and enactment of H.R. 521 would not only comport with the wisdom and foresight of the architects of the U.S. Constitution, it would restore the faith of the people of Guam in the sovereignty and autonomy of their judicial branch.
The people of Guam deserve no less than a free, impartial and independent court system, with, as its name implies, the Supreme Court indeed reigning supreme. I ask the members of this Committee to recall the opening line of Section. 4, Article Four of the U.S. Constitution:
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."
Mr. Chairman, in H.R. 521, although we are not a State, we in the Territory of Guam respectfully seek that guarantee.
(A letter submitted for the record by The Hon. Frank Blas Aguon, Jr., Senator, 26th Guam Legislature, on H.R. 521 follows:]
As a Senator (D) of the Twenty-sixth Guam Legislature and member of the Committee on Power, Public Safety, Judiciary and Consumer Affairs, I would like to comment on H.R. 521 and respectfully request that this letter be included in the heading record. Congress gave Guam the authority to create a judicial system. In fact eight years ago we created the Supreme Court of Guam. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Guain and Superior Court of Guam thrive under separate adeninistrations with oversight by a Judicial Council made up of both courts. Any changes needed to replace the existing system of checks and balances should be made by the people of Guam through their elected representatives.
Currently, under Guatn law the Guam Judicial branch is in fact a separate and equal branch and has been treated as such by the Guam Legislature. While some say the Guam Legislature could remove the Supreme Court of Guam, I assure you this will not occur. Indeed, Congress could eliminate all Federal District and Appellate Courts, but has not done so. Both are events that exist in theory alone and have no basis in truth under any political reality. To promote such a theory is a serious miscalculation and misunderstanding of Guam's peoples' political will to embrace the basic forms of Government out nation has set forth by example.
Like both Guam's executive and legislative bratches of government, Guanı's Judicial Branch should be subject to the laws of Guara. No branch is above the law and must be answerable to the will of the people whom they serve. This is the very essence of a democracy. These are the powers of the government which the U.S. Congress excrcises for the nation's U.S. Appellate courts, and which the Guam Legislature exercises on behalf of its people.
The proposed measured not only undermines and repeak existing Guam law, but implements important decisions and policies for Gurin and its judicial system which should be left to the people of Guam and their elected law makers. I support the establishment of a Supreme Court and its ability to conduct court proceedings, render decisions and interpret law. However, I respectfully urge Congress to support the authority of a local legislature to pass laws governing the administration of all branches in a manner that best serves the needs of the people and their community.
I thank you for the opportunity to allow me to express my views on H.R. 521. I wish you and the Committee well in your deliberation.
SENATOR FRANK BLAS AGUON, JR.
Mina Bente Sais Na Libeslaturan Guahan
(Twenty-xth Guam Legislature)
Respetu Para Todu (Respect for All)
Suite 101-A Ada's Commercial and Professivani Center • 118 East Murine Drive • Nugátin, Guam 96910
Ihone (671) 479-4GUM (4486/4828) – Fax (671) 479-4827
[A letter submitted for the record by Joaquin C. Arriola, President, Guam Bar Association, on H.R. 521 follows:]
I am Joaquin C. Arriola, Jr. and I am the President of the Guam Bar Association (GBA), a public body corporate comprising of all of Guam's lawyers. There are currently 268 active and 119 inactive members of Guam's integrated bar. I am pleased to provide this written testimony on behalf of the Guam Bar in support of House Resolution No. 521, which establishes and affirms the authority of the Supreme Court of Guam through amendments to the Organic Act of Guam.
The GBA standing committee on legislation conducted a formal survey of our active membership on H.R. 521. The proposed legislation garnered formidable support from the GBA, where our members support the legislation by more than a three to one ratio. This is not at all surprising. Over the past several years, the Bar has consistently surveyed its membership on various pieces of local and federal legislation affecting the Supreme Court of Guam, its composition and authority. The Bar has consistently and overwhelming supported an amendment to the Organic Act which would define the authority of the island's highest court and establish it as a truly equal branch of our local government.
Most bar members believe it is imperative that the Supreme Court of Guam's authority be defined and affirmed in the Organic Act. Because it is presently a creature of local legislation, the Supreme Court is not immune from the political whims of the Guam Legislature. Since the Count was formed several years ago, the local legislature has attempted on several occasions, and succeeded on at least one, in changing the Supreme Court's jurisdiction and authority. In order to ensure stability, equality and self-governance in Guam's third branch of government, it is necessary for Guam's Organic Act to define the paramount authority of the island's Supreme Court, in all aspects of Guam's judiciary. The present state of the laws on Guam, which permits the local legislature to change the function and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court at any time for any reason, is contrary to the fundamental democratic concept of separate but equal branches of government. H.R. 521 ensures the stability of Guam's Supreme Court and the members of the Guam Bar ardently support the resolution as it relates to defining the authority of Guam's highest
Representing clients from all walks of life, from the foreign corporation based in Delaware to the indigent minor in need of protection from abuse, Guam's lawyers represent the pulse of our island community. As lawyers, litigators and officers of the courts, we are intimately familiar with the island's administration of justice. Indeed, Guam's lawyers are uniquely qualified to render our opinion on legislation which affects our profession, the clients we serve, and the administration of justice on Guam. On behalf of the lawyers of Guam, the Guam Bar Association expresses its enthusiastic support for II.R. 521. We hope the Congress acts promptly to adopt H.R.521 and to provide our island with a truly separate and equal third branch of government.
[A letter submitted for the record by David L. Bernhardt, Director, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs and Counselor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, on H.R. 521 follows:]
This responds to your request for the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 521 – a bill to
Enacted by the Congress, the Organic Act of Guam is similar to a constitution in any of the fifty
H.R. 521 would amend the judicial provisions of the Organic Act of Guam to specifically name the
It is argued that only an act of Congress can bring unity and dignity to Guam's local courts.
The structure of Guam's local judiciary is largely a self-government issue for Guam. As such,
The Office of Management and Budget advises that there is no objection to the presentation of this
[A letter submitted for the record by William J. Blair, et al., Law Offices of Dlemin, Blair, Sterling & Johnson, on H.R. 521 follows:]