Friday, April 4, 2003
Senators debate bills for courts,
By Steve Limtiaco
Senators will decide whether to change the law to give Supreme Court of
Guam justices control of the island's judicial system.
Pacific Daily News
The Superior Court of Guam and the Supreme Court of Guam have been engaged
in a power struggle for years, with both sides spending money on lobbyists
to support their positions.
During yesterday's legislative session, senators debated Bill 48, by
Sen. Randall Cunliffe, D-Tamuning, which would give Supreme Court justices
controlling seats on a restructured judicial council. The chief justice
would sit as the council's chairman.
"We have to get beyond the petty politics and get the courts moving
in the right direction," Cunliffe said, noting $600,000 has been
spent by the courts on lobbyists. "Look at this as a way to function
that will allow the courts to take the position and have the honor they
are entitled to."
Cunliffe, a practicing attorney, said the goal of his bill is to get
the courts to act as a single, unified branch of government.
The five-member council would supervise the court system and would have
the authority to hire a single administrator and a single chief marshal
to oversee the operation of both courts. The courts currently employ separate
administrators and chief marshals.
Cunliffe's bill also would clarify that the Supreme Court is the highest
Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero, D-Tamuning, said she supports the bill because
it would allow the court system to unify its operations, saving money
and making it more effective.
Also during yesterday's session, senators debated Bill 45, by Vice Speaker
Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona, which would give laid-off government of Guam
workers first shot at new jobs in private companies that take over government
Aguon said the bill requires companies to offer new jobs to former government
workers first, if they qualify.
"I believe that it is the right thing to do," said Speaker Ben
Sen. Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, said he objects to the bill because it
favors former government workers over others who apply for the same jobs.
"We are the government for all of the people. We're not just the
government for government employees," Klitzkie said. "It doesn't
seem right to me that we should favor one group of applicant over another
group of applicant as a matter of law."
He said those types of conditions can scare companies away from bidding
for government work. Former GovGuam workers should already have an advantage
because they have been doing those jobs, Klitzkie said.
Senators also debated a bill by Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Chalan Pago, that
requires six-month performance reviews for the directors of the government's
autonomous and board-controlled agencies.
Debate turned into a discussion on the independence of the public school
system, with some senators saying the bill is an attempt to micromanage
the public schools.
Klitzkie said the elected school board's role is to hire a superintendent
for the public schools -- not to supervise the superintendent or to report
on his or her performance.
Sen. Carmen Fernandez, D-Yona, said the purpose of the bill is not political
interference, but increased accountability and transparency in government
This article was published with the permission of the publisher of the
Pacific Daily News, Guam. Any republication of this article without the
explicit permission of the Pacific Daily News is in violation of federal
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