Moylan, Palacios exhibit support for Bill 132
by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Lawmakers are expected to discuss yet another piece of legislation introduced at the request of the Attorney General - Bill 132 seeks to create an independent counsel should the AG have a conflict with prosecuting a case. Senator Adolpho Palacios (D) says the proposed law is effective legislation that would create a process to deal with conflicts that may arise with the island's attorney general.
"The importance of the bill is it seeks to provide a process; whatever the process is, it doesn't matter - we have to be proactive," said the freshman policymaker.
Bill 132 outlines procedures for situations when the Attorney General is subject to investigation. An investigating panel consisting of the chief prosecutor and two senior assistant attorneys general would conduct a preliminary investigation and forward their recommendations to a panel of three Superior Court judges. Should the judges deem a crime has been committed, an independent counsel would be selected.
Attorney General Douglas Moylan supports the legislation, saying it would protect the chief legal officer from what he calls "rogue prosecutions". Elucidating, Moylan told KUAM News, "This particular bill is important because it protects the attorney general against malicious prosecutions by political figures, in this case, the Governor." Moylan says he hopes lawmakers will pass the legislation to protect himself and attorneys general in the future from malicious prosecution.
The Attorney General also added that such a law would ensure the chief legal officer of the government could only be removed from office by the public who voted him or her into office. "I call it special legislation," he continued. "I'm not going to mince words about it. This is intended to protect attorneys general who are elected by the people against politicians who are the subjects of our investigations and prosecutions from defeating the system. I'm sorry to say it, but the nature of this beast, is the attorney general assigns blame and prosecutes people and eventually if the people of Guam through the jury agrees, takes away liberty."
Bill 132 also includes a clause that states, in part - "In the event of a prosecution of the attorney general and the dismissal or acquittal of the criminal case, the AG shall likewise be entitled to reimbursement for those attorney's fees and costs incurred."
KUAM News asked Senator Palacios if the legislation also includes a grandfather clause that would give the Attorney General reimbursement for his attorney's fees incurred when he was charged and acquitted of family violence and lying under oath charges. "Definitely there's not going to be a grandfather clause," he promised.
But the senator will need to do much more convincing to get his colleagues to pass the measure.
Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Bob Klitzkie (R) says the attorney's fees clause in the legislation raises some questions, explaining, "(If) the Attorney General were to be reimbursed his attorney's fees in that circumstance, it would be the only instance that I know of where a defendant in a criminal case would be reimbursed his attorneys fees. I think that would be, at the least, unusual," the second-term lawmaker concluded.
Senator Klitzkie also added he also identified some serious constitutional problems in the bill that would involve the Legislature in a prosecutorial matter. "It would allow eight members of the Legislature to derail a prosecution," he said. "I don't think the Legislature has a proper role in deciding who should be prosecuted, whether the prosecution should terminate, etc. Those are matters for the prosecution and the court, not for the Legislature."
During a public hearing late Thursday afternoon, AG Moylan was the sole supporter testifying in favor of the measure. Lawmakers are expected to discuss the measure on session floor in the coming weeks.
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