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By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 30) - Justice Pro-tem Richard H. Benson has been appointed to preside over the criminal case involving former Gov. Carl Gutierrez and former Department of Administration Director Clifford Guzman, after all trial court judges were disqualified from hearing the case.

Supreme Court of Guam Associate Justice Frances Tydingco-Gatewood made the appointment yesterday afternoon after Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido recused himself.

Carbullido said in a document attached to his recusal that his impartiality may be questioned for several reasons, including his role as campaign political adviser to Gutierrez's 1998 election team.

Tydingco-Gatewood "shall act as chief justice in this matter," Carbullido's recusal statement said.

Benson is a retired Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court justice and is a designated justice for the Supreme Court of Guam, according to Pacific Daily News files. Recently, Benson has presided over the bond case involving the dispute between Gov. Felix Camacho and Attorney General Douglas Moylan in the Supreme Court of Guam, files state.

Benson will be paid the hourly rate of a Superior Court judge, "not to exceed 40 hours per week" from Superior Court funds, according to an order signed by Tydingco-Gatewood.

Gutierrez and Guzman were scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing yesterday, but that hearing was moved to Feb. 18.

They were indicted Dec. 30 in connection with authorizing the use of government of Guam funds to pay for thousands of private streetlights.

Superior Court Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena had sent a letter Wednesday afternoon to Carbullido stating that all trial court judges have been disqualified. Several of the Superior Court judges were justices who were nominated by Gutierrez. And all but one of the three-member Guam Supreme Court justices were nominated by the former governor.

In related news, Guzman's attorney, David Highsmith, yesterday filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against Guzman, arguing that the grand jury was "seriously mislead," according to the motion.

January 30, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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