GUAM READY FOR INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Oct. 12) - Guam will soon have an official third, co-equal branch of government, once House Resolution 2400 is signed, as expected, by President George W. Bush.

The measure - which passed in the House of Representatives Sept. 13 and in the Senate just this week - establishes the judiciary as an independent branch of the government of Guam by amending the Organic Act of Guam. It was introduced last year by Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, who called the bill's passage "a significant landmark in the development of self-governance in Guam."

H.R. 2400 also makes it clear that the highest court on our island is the Supreme Court of Guam, with appellate and administrative authority over all other local courts.

This is a significant development in our judiciary. The lack of foundation in the Organic Act left our local court system subject to the control - and whim - of Guam lawmakers. At any point and time, the Guam Legislature could have revoked the local law that created the Supreme Court. This made the judicial system far too open to political maneuvering.

In 1997, senators stripped the Supreme Court’s authority and moved it over to the Superior Court of Guam. It wasn’t until a 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruling in March 2002 that the high court was affirmed as Guam’s highest court. But even that ruling wouldn’t have meant much if the Legislature, for whatever reason, decided to eliminate the Supreme Court.

But now, after several attempts that at one point included elected officials and judges opposing the Organic Act change - not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars, combined, spent by the Supreme Court and Superior Court on lobbyists to argue their respective sides - our community, including our current crop of elected officials, will finally see a fully legitimized third branch of government, with the Supreme Court at the top.

It’s the right thing for our community, and it's long overdue.

October 13, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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