GUAM COURT DECLINES TO HEAR SLOT MACHINE CASE

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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 1) – Within hours of the slot-machine proponents' request for a Guam Supreme Court order that would place their initiative on the December 15 ballot, the high court yesterday declined to step in – for now.

Proponents of Proposal A, which would legalize slot machines at the Guam Greyhound racetrack, had asked for the Supreme Court's intervention, in part by stating in court papers that the Guam Election Commission was "folding to political pressure by anti-gambling forces."

The issue is "not yet ripe for adjudication" because the Guam Election Commission hasn't decided whether to put the initiative on the Dec. 15 ballot, according to Supreme Court Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido, Associate Justice Robert J. Torres and interim Justice Richard H. Benson.

But even if the issue were "ripe," the high court stated, it does not normally intervene – "except in highly unusual cases" of public importance.

"The issue here is whether a ballot initiative permitting slot-machine gambling in limited locations should be placed on the ballot for the upcoming special election currently scheduled for Dec. 15, 2007, or whether it should be placed on the ballot for the regular election scheduled for November 2008," according to the justices.

"While we do not reach this issue, we note that at first glance, this does not appear to be a highly unusual case involving issues of great public importance," the justices added.

The election commissioners met for about an hour yesterday, but ended their meeting after 6 p.m. without a resolution on whether the slot-machine initiative should also be placed on the Dec. 15 ballot.

The commission will meet again 4 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Guam Election Commission office, second floor, GCIC Building in Hagåtña.

In his legal opinion dated Oct. 23, election commission legal counsel Cesar Cabot stated that Guam laws on special elections allow for Proposal A to be on the Dec. 15 ballot.

Cabot said yesterday his legal opinion is being provided as a guide, but it is up to the commissioners to decide whether to follow the opinion or "take a different path."

Richard Pipes, an attorney for Proposal A, urged the Guam Election Commission board to decide whether the initiative goes on the Dec. 15 ballot.

Pipes also said earlier yesterday the law is very clear: after Guam Election Commission certified the initiative in March, voters get to decide on the issue at the next General Election or special election.

Attorney Jay Arriola, who opposes the slot-machine initiative, said Proposal A lacks the "key" to be included in the upcoming special election.

That "key" is a legislative call to a special election on the initiative, Arriola said.

The election commission set the Dec. 15 special election so voters can fill the legislative seat vacated by the recent death of Sen. Tony Unpingco.

In March, Guam Election Commission certified the pro-slots initiative for placement on the ballot the next time a General Election or special election comes around – provided the election occurs 90 days after the certification.

"Guam Election Commission does not have the authority to ignore the mandatory language of the election statutes or its own rules," Pipes stated in court documents.

The Guam Election Commission meeting yesterday involved preliminary discussions about such details as how to provide ballot security and identify a central tabulation area.

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