Guam AG Appeals Dismissal Of Gaming Machine Lawsuit

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The administration opposes AG’s efforts, pushed for dismissal

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 26, 2014) – The Office of the Attorney General will appeal the court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit over the legality of gaming machines.

Superior Court of Guam Judge Arthur Barcinas on Friday dismissed the gaming machine lawsuit over lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The AG's office contends that the hundreds of electronic gaming machines relicensed by the Department of Revenue and Taxation are illegal gaming devices under Guam law. The attorney general in August asked the court to declare the gaming machines illegal." The judge's ruling did not decide the merits of the case, which means neither side can claim victory at this point," Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas said.

The administration in October asked the Superior Court to dismiss the attorney general's lawsuit.

Governor's legal counsel Sandra Miller argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because the attorney general didn't exhaust all options before taking the matter to court for a declaratory judgment.

The governor's office also has asked the court to disqualify the AG's office from filing the lawsuit, arguing that it has previously represented the governor and Rev and Tax in lawsuits related to the machines.

Barcinas found that the AG failed to exhaust its administrative remedies by failing to ask the Department of Revenue and Taxation to determine the validity of the gaming machine rules.

Where a statute requires exhaustion of administrative remedies, a party's failure to do so deprives the court of subject matter jurisdiction, he wrote.

"Simply put, the Attorney General impermissibly attempted to sidestep formal agency review of the disputed regulation by proceeding directly to this Court with its request for declaratory relief," Barcinas wrote in his order.

Barcinas wrote that because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction it need not reach the question of whether the AG should be disqualified from the case.

Rapadas said the court dismissed this case without prejudice only on the technical basis of failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

"In addition, the dismissal is without prejudice, meaning the lawsuit can be revived. We respectfully disagree with the court and we are planning to appeal," he said.

He said, to be clear, the court didn't dismiss the case on the merits of whether gambling machines or devices are legal.

"And the court did not rule on the issue of the governor's counsel request to recuse the Office of the Attorney General on the basis of a conflict of interest, which we also dispute," Rapadas said

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