Guam Judge's Alleged Relationship Leads To Court Motions

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Canto given 10 days to answer motions from defense attorneys

By Armando Cordoba

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 24, 2013) – Two defense attorneys have filed motions asking that Superior Court of Guam Judge James L. Canto step down from their clients' cases, citing an alleged personal relationship between Canto and a prosecutor with the Office of the Attorney General.

Both motions were filed April 16, claiming the alleged relationship between the judge and the prosecutor creates an impartial and unfair advantage in cases brought before Canto.

Joshua Tenorio, the director of policy and planning for the Judiciary of Guam, said Canto has 10 days to answer the objections filed against him.

A motion filed by The Van de Veld Law Offices questions Canto's competency to preside over Norman Camacho James Jr.'s court case. It alleges the judge's relationship with Rochelle Yu presents a conflict of interest, court documents state.

James, in a declaration attached to the motion, wrote, "I do not know the conversations that Judge Canto and Ms. Yu discuss during their intimate moments, whether they socialize with other prosecuting attorneys due to Ms. Yu's employment, whether they discuss issues in Ms. Yu's cases before other courts, all of which raise a concern in my mind that Judge Canto can be fair and impartial in presiding over my cases."

According to documents filed by attorney Curtis Van De Veld, Canto allegedly admitted to the relationship when asked about it in court April 16, but Canto said it wasn't grounds for disqualification.

Van De Veld said he believes Canto wants to rule favorably for the government, despite whether Yu or one of her coworkers is prosecuting the case.

In a separate motion, the Law Offices of Cunliffe & Cook asked that Canto disqualify himself from presiding over Kyle Evan Blas' case. It also cited his alleged relationship with a prosecutor from the AG's office as grounds for disqualification.

Because of the alleged relationship, attorney F. Randall Cunliffe argued Canto didn't follow disclosure laws which state, "Any judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceedings which his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

In his motion, Cunliffe wrote that Canto was "seen observing the prosecutor's performance in a trial before Judge Perez, and more recently, Judge Canto was seen attending a session in Judge Lamorena's courtroom... where she was the prosecutor involved."

Cunliffe continued, "Counsel can only assume that Judge Canto is observing the assistant attorney general's performance in order to give her advice as to how to be a better prosecutor and lawyer."

According to Cunliffe's motion, Cunliffe spoke to Van De Veld, who said, "he felt the judge's demeanor and behavior changed dramatically upon his friend from the Attorney's General Office coming into the court to observe the trial."

The law prohibits Canto from talking to the media about the issue, court spokesman Tenorio said.

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