Supremes take charge: Judicial Council set to take helm of GovGuam Judicial Branch

by Ken Wetmore, KUAM News
Monday, November 03, 2003

With a vote to override Governor Felix Camacho's veto of Bill 48, such action not only serves to reorganize the island's Judiciary, but it also puts to rest the years-long unresolved issue of whose in control of the island's Judiciary.

It was several years ago that a rider was attached to a bill surrounding the Ordot Dump, and at the time, it was commented that the only thing they had in common was trash. The rider effectively eliminated the Supreme Court of Guam's control over the Superior Court. Since then a resolution was introduced in Congress to try and correct the situation.

You may recall the Superior Court, led by administrator Tony Sanchez, even went so far as paying almost a half-million dollars to one of the nation's top lobbyists to block that resolution's passage. It worked until the 27th Guam Legislature came into play and Senator Randy Cunliffe introduced Bill 48. While the Governor vetoed it, a vote by ten senators during session floor Friday it changed all that.

It appears the Supreme Court is wasting no time in assuming its responsibilities, as we discovered today when we spoke with Supreme Court Executive Director Dan Tydingco. He says the Court is pleased with the Legislature's veto override of Bill 48, which reorganizes the Judiciary Branch of the Government of Guam. Tydingco says its taken seven years to see a unified Judiciary, noting, “We acknowledge the vote of the ten senators under the leadership of Speaker [Ben] Pangelinan, who has always been very instrumental in supporting a Judiciary that's free and independent.”

Voting in favor of the measure were all the democrats in the Legislature except Vice Speaker Frank Aguon, Jr. and two republicans - senators Bob Klitzkie and Jesse Anderson Lujan. Authored by Democrat Senator Cunliffe, Bill 48 makes the Supreme Court the highest court on Guam and designates a Judicial Council as the head of the Judicial Branch. The three Supreme Court justices and two Superior Court justices will make up the Judicial Council.

Added Tydingco, “The passage of this measure puts us on a similar footing to all other state court jurisdictions and the chief justice and supreme courts are in charge of administering the entire branch of the government its not like it's anything novel or different.”

When the Judicial Council meets for the first time, it will have a full agenda. Tydingco says one item will be the formation of a court reorganization task force, with an overall goal of consolidating redundant functions, one of those redundant positions being the executive directors of the Supreme and Superior courts. Tydingco says the task force will also select a new administrator.

“In vision under a unified Judiciary, there's no need for redundancy as far as positions, so we're going to ensure that there are functions of the Court are not duplicated replicated that the priorities are made clearly and ultimately there will be some savings for the community,” he said.

Also on the agenda will be the issuance of an RFP to conduct a full audit of the Judicial Building Fund. Said Tydingco, “There's a need to ensure there's proper accountability for every single dime, every single nickel, every single penny that's been pumped into the judicial system.” He adds that Supreme Court Chief Justice Philip Carbullido has set the first meeting of the newly-formed Judicial Council for November 20.


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