GUAM AG TO BE EVICTED OVER FAILURE TO PAY RENT

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By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 18) - In a packed courtroom yesterday, the Judicial Council voted 3-2 in favor of evicting the attorney general's office from its office space at the Guam Judicial Center in Hagatna.

Supreme Court of Guam Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido and Justices Frances Tydingco-Gatewood and Robert Torres voted to evict the AG's office, while Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena and Judge Katherine Maraman voted against it.

As a show of support, dozens of employees from the attorney general's office attended the meeting yesterday in Lamorena's courtroom, but to no avail.

After about 45 minutes of discussion, the council voted in favor of evicting the attorney general's office and to hire a law firm to proceed with the eviction notice. If the attorney general's office does not comply with the notice by June 30, then "legal remedies" will be sought, said Dan Tydingco, the Judiciary of Guam director of policy, planning and community relations.

The attorney general's office is not backing down and contends that the judicial council does not have the authority to evict the dozens of attorneys, investigators and other staff from the space it occupies.

"Ultimately, it is the taxpayers who are going to pay for our removal and our relocation," Moylan said. "They are going to pay for the judiciary's attorneys to pursue us, and they are going to pay for the ongoing inefficiencies of having the attorney general's office outside the court building."

Moylan said he believes legal action on the court's part is inevitable.

He said his office is ready to defend itself in court.

EVICTION

During yesterday's meeting, Court Administrator Perry Taitano said the attorney general's office has not paid rent since 1996. He said the judiciary is obligated to collect rent but has not been successful.

The court also previously offered the attorney general's office the opportunity to pay its fiscal year's worth of rent by mid-September and the court would forgive all past debts. Taitano said the court has not heard from the AG's office about the offer. The AG's office owes almost $3.6 million in back rent and $436,000 in rent for this fiscal year.

Moylan said the judiciary does not own the property that the building sits on, and the judiciary has not been given authority to receive rent as a landlord. The land is owned by the government of Guam. The attorney general's office occupies 14,355 square feet at the judicial building.

Moylan said his office has bigger concerns than "where we are located," adding that he does not have the money to pay for rent.

"Don't make our lives any harder," Moylan told the council.

Special Assistant Attorney General Philip Isaac said there are two primary concerns if the AG's office is evicted.

He said by housing the staff in another building, there will be a reduction in efficiency, just by the walk back and forth to the building. Also, if an attorney shows up for a hearing and it doesn't start on time, that attorney would have to wait. As it currently stands, the attorney can go back to the office, get some work done and return to the courtroom when the hearing begins.

But Torres said there is a need for the court to consolidate its operations. The court pays $300,000 a year to house court personnel and functions at a handful of other Hagatna buildings.

"It makes more sense to try to bring them in," Torres said.

Torres said he sympathizes with the AG's office and knows they also need "a home," but he pointed out other government entities housed in other buildings pay for rent, power and water.

"The judiciary needs the space for its people ultimately," Torres said. "It makes more sense we are under one roof."

Justices said yesterday there may be some room at the judicial building to house a portion of the AG's office but not all staff members.

Moylan also asked whether the AG's office can occupy the Public Defender's Office, which is also slated to move out of the judicial building.

Carbullido said they will take it under consideration, but the defender's office also has asked to remain in the building.

"I would like to see us to work towards a smooth transition and avoid litigation," Torres said.

June 18, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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