GUAM JUDGE ORDERED OFF RETIREMENT FUND CASE

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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 4) – The Guam Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Superior Court of Guam to prohibit Judge Arthur R. Barcinas from presiding over further proceedings in the case that resulted in a US$123 million settlement for government of Guam retirees.

A group of taxpayers asked the local Supreme Court for the order by raising a conflict-of-interest issue.

Barcinas' parents stand to receive almost US$200,000 from the settlement.

The settlement involves back payment of cost-of- living-allowance for about 4,000 GovGuam retirees or their survivors.

Barcinas' father is to be paid US$134,595.69 under the judgment and the judge's mother is to be paid US$59,402.47, according to the list of cost of living allowance settlement recipients.

Interim Justices Richard H. Benson, Miguel S. Demapan and John A. Manglona -- all from the Northern Marianas -- issued yesterday's order.

Supreme Court of Guam Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido and Justice Robert Torres had recused themselves from the case, with Carbullido stating that his father would be paid under the cost of living allowance judgment and Torres saying his mother-in-law would be paid.

Taxpayers Pat Duque, Ponciano Elgarico, Arnold Davis Jr., Thomas Sheldon and Armando Dominguez sought for Barcinas' removal from the case.

The taxpayers have stated they intend to stop the cost of living allowance payments and to recover for the government any money already paid.

On Aug. 31, the governor's office announced US$4.3 million worth of checks had been mailed as initial payment of the settlement.

And the Guam Legislature recently authorized borrowing up to US$92 million from the bond market to pay down the US$123 million settlement.

If the borrowing occurs, taxpayers will carry the debt baggage for 30 years. But the elected officials who are pushing for the borrowing have argued the cost of living allowance settlement is also accumulating interest if it remains unpaid.

The Supreme Court order "is the beginning of the end" of the cost of living allowance judgment, Sheldon said.

Any GovGuam attempt to borrow from the bond market to pay the cost of living allowance judgment will now be clouded because of the Supreme Court order, he said.

Sheldon is a former bond counsel in another jurisdiction whose past practice involved international financial issues.

"With this order now, it would be impossible for the bonds to be sold," Sheldon said.

The Supreme Court's order stated Sheldon's group has "no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law and that an alternative writ of prohibition should issue.

"Now therefore, the Superior Court is commanded, immediately on the receipt of this writ, to prohibit Superior Court Judge Arthur R. Barcinas from presiding over further proceedings in ... the cost of living allowance case," the order states.

But the order also left a door open for more arguments about the disqualification issue.

The order states the Superior Court on Oct. 26 should explain to the Supreme Court:

"Why Judge Barcinas should not be absolutely restrained from any further proceedings in the cost of living allowance case," and

Why the cost of living allowance case should not be referred to another judge to decide Barcinas' disqualification issue and the taxpayers' motion to intervene in the cost of living allowance case.

The retirees' attorney, Mike Phillips, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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