Improvements To Guam's Justice System Underway

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Chief justice updates senators on efforts to boost efficiency

By Cameron Miculka

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 11, 2013) – The Guam Judiciary is consistently working to improve its staff and services, said Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido yesterday at the Legislature building in HagÃ¥tña.

As part of a status report about the courts' ongoing strategic plan, Carbullido stressed efforts the courts are taking to improve the island's justice system and its relationship with the community.

Carbullido told senators about new trial time standards implemented in September. The standards, which are specific to the types of cases, are intended to set benchmarks for judges to dispose of cases with the goal of improving court efficiency.

For example, judges are expected to close three quarters of cases within nine months of the case's filing and 98 percent of cases within the year.

The court can't be required to process 100 percent. Court rules state "there will be a very small number of cases that will require more time to resolve."

Carbullido said the island's judges are working with the standards in mind.

"All our judges are making an earnest effort to meet the time standards," he said.

DOC fills up faster

While senators commended the courts' efforts, Sen. Tom Ada, R-Sinajana, expressed concerns that improved efficiency at the courts would mean the Department of Corrections (DOC) would fill up faster.

Carbullido responded by noting the effects some of the Judiciary's programs, such as drug court, have on certain classes of offenders.

He said those types of programs allow offenders to focus on rehabilitation rather than merely punishment.

Joshua Tenorio, the Judiciary's director of policy, planning and community relations, noted the need to focus on disposing of cases to fix the growing detainee population at the prison.

Earlier this year, DOC officials noted that most of the population at the facility is made up of detainees awaiting trial.

Tenorio said he and the chief justice had been reviewing a list indicating each detainee's charges, case and length of detention.

The list showed that some cases have been on hold for "extensive periods of time."

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said he thought the details revealed by the list were "very disconcerting." Carbullido replied that the list would be a topic of upcoming judicial meetings.

Tenorio said that cases that had been on hold for a long time could be prioritized to move them along.

He also said deportation of foreign convicts could be improved, and that a recent grant will help establish treatment programs for sex offenders.

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