Eight Guam Judges Explain Why They Recused Themselves From Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

Various conflicts of interest mean judges refuse to hear cased against Catholic priests

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 28, 2017) – Citing conflict of interest or appearance of bias, all eight trial court judges in the Superior Court of Guam have filed 84 notices of disqualification from cases related to alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Among the judges’ reasons for recusals are their relationships with either the alleged victims of clergy sex abuses or the accused priests, including Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, as well as other defendants, such as the Archdiocese of Agana.

Judge Vernon P. Perez, for example, said he is a friend and former high school classmate of Walter G. Denton, who has accused Apuron of raping him in the 1970s.

Judge Anita A. Sukola said she is personally acquainted with Apuron and is closely related to several members of the Neocatechumenal Way, an organization within the archdiocese.

Judge Elyze Iriarte said a family member claims to have witnessed one of the accused priests, Louis Brouillard, engaging in acts similar to those described in lawsuits filed.

“Under Guam law, a judge shall disqualify herself in any proceeding in which her impartiality might reasonably be questioned," Iriarte said in her motion for disqualification filings. "Furthermore, a judge shall disqualify herself where she has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed facts concerning the proceedings."

Iriarte also said she has children attending a Catholic school.

“The payment of a tithe and monthly tuition may not amount to a financial interest in the subject matter at hand, ... however, the impartiality of the court may still be questioned,” Iriarte said in her filings.

Judge Maria T. Cenzon said she continues to be registered as a parishioner of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña and regularly attends Mass at Catholic parishes.

“Moreover, the undersigned’s practice of its religious faith may also affect its ability to remain impartial in this case,” Cenzon said in her disqualification form filed for 14 of 15 clergy sex abuse cases.

An estimated 85 percent of Guam’s population is Catholic.

“The cases (in the local court) are not moving forward. We want to find a judge who would hear our cases, now that we also filed in federal court,” said Attorney Gloria Lujan Rudolph of the law firm Lujan and Wolff, which represents the 15 former altar boys who have so far filed clergy abuse lawsuits in the Superior Court of Guam.

Because of trial court judges’ series of recusals, the former altar boys’ attorneys started filing the cases in the U.S. District Court. Up to nine other cases will be filed in federal court in the days ahead, attorney David Lujan said.

A review of all disqualification memos filed between Nov. 10 and Jan. 27 shows all of Guam’s eight trial court judges have already recused themselves from hearing anywhere between two and 14 of those 15 clergy abuse cases.

These are based on documents obtained by the Pacific Daily News Friday night from the Guam Judiciary’s Policy Planning and Community Relations office.

Cenzon recused herself from hearing 14 of 15 clergy sex abuse cases, based on court documents, while Judge Linda L. Ingles recused herself from hearing two cases.

Presiding Judge Alberto C. Lamorena III, Judge Michael J. Bordallo and Sukola each recused themselves from 13 clergy abuse cases.

Perez recused himself from hearing 12 cases, while Iriarte recused herself from hearing 11 cases. Judge Arthur R. Barcinas recused himself from hearing six of the cases.

In some cases, the recusals are over appearance of bias.

Lamorena, for example, said the Rev. Adrian Cristobal, who served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Agana for several years under Apuron, is his first cousin.

“As Father Cristobal is a close relative, his potential involvement in the case may provoke speculation and doubt in a reasonable person regarding my partiality as the assigned judge in the current matter,” Lamorena said. “This close relationship also presents an appearance of bias, which warrants disqualification.”

Bordallo said David J. Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics of Guam,  is the father-in-law of his current chamber clerk, Cynthia C. Sablan.

The 15 clergy sex abuse lawsuits in local court were made possible after Gov. Eddie Calvo, on Sept. 23, signed a law lifting the civil statute of limitations for those accused of abusing children, as well as the institutions that supported them.

Here are the trial court judges that have recused themselves from hearing clergy sex abuse cases, with some of the reasons:

Presiding Judge Alberto C. Lamorena III

  • Recused from hearing 13 clergy sexual abuse cases.
  • First cousin with the Rev. Adrian Cristobal, who served as chancellor of the Archdiocese of Agana for several years under Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron.

Judge Maria T. Cenzon

  • Recused from hearing 14 cases.
  • Former husband Ricardo C. Duenas is a member of the reconstituted Archdiocesan Finance Council, which coordinates legal defense of the Archdiocese of Agana, a named defendant in all the cases.
  • Continues to be a registered parishioner at the cathedral-basilica, and regularly attends Mass.
  • Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes bestowed upon her parents a special blessing for their 50th wedding anniversary.
  • Childhood friends with Robert Aguon Perez, who accused former island priest David Anderson of sexually abusing him.

Judge Anita A. Sukola

  • Recused herself from hearing 13 cases.
  • Closely related to several members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
  • Personally acquainted with Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron.
  • Regularly attends Sunday Mass, and was regularly exposed to a petition requesting Gov. Eddie Calvo to veto Bill 326-33, which lifts the statute of limitation for child sex abuse cases.

Judge Michael J. Bordallo

  • Recused himself from hearing 13 cases.
  • David Sablan, president of Concerned Catholics of Guam, is the father-in-law of his current chamber clerk, Cynthia C. Sablan.

Judge Vernon P. Perez

  • Recused himself from hearing 12 cases.
  • Former high school classmate and friend of Walter G. Denton, who accused Apuron of raping him in the 1970s.
  • Acquainted with other former altar boys, along with their families, who filed lawsuits clergy sex abuse lawsuits.
  • Has close relationship with Apuron in his capacity as a leader for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
  • Served for several years through 2008 on the board of directors for Catholic Social Services, with Apuron as chairman.
  • Close relationship with the leadership of the Archdiocese of Agana.
  • Serves as a choir leader, instrumentalist and lector at San Juan Bautista Parish in Ordot.
  • Close cousin of Greg Perez, former president of Concerned Catholics of Guam, and the two families enjoy close relationship.
  • Familial relationship with Dee Peredo, one of the contact persons for advertisements reaching out to clergy sex abuse survivors.

Judge Elyze Iriarte

  • Recused herself from hearing 11 cases.
  • Has a family relationship with a person who personally knows and has interacted with one of the defendants, former island priest Louis Brouillard. The family member claims to have witnessed Brouillard engage in acts similar to those described in the verified complaints.
  • Prior to becoming a judge of the Superior Court of Guam, she counseled the family member on a potential claim concerning what his family member witnessed and experienced. 
  • Regularly attends Catholic Mass within the Archdiocese of Agana, and offers financial contribution when attending Mass.
  • Has children enrolled at a Catholic school.

Judge Arthur R. Barcinas

  • Recused himself from hearing six cases.
  • His late uncle, Deacon Jeff Barcinas, appears to have been a secretarial staff to Apuron during a potentially relevant period.

Judge Linda L. Ingles

  • Recused herself from hearing two cases.
  • Shares a strong friendship with many of the Archdiocese of Agana’s clergy, especially the Rev. Monsignor James L.G. Benavente.
  • She said when it was unforeseen that she would become involved in an official capacity in the dispute, she made certain remarks to close friends about the court’s strongly held opinion on the wider dispute surrounding the Archdiocese of Agana, including the events engendered in the complaints.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2017 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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