Guam Judges Continue To Recuse Themselves From Hearing Clergy Abuse Cases

Local judges' close familiar, business ties could give appearance of partiality

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 1, 2017) – Superior Court of Guam judges continue to recuse themselves from hearing Catholic clergy sex abuse cases, now that the local court is seeing a second wave of filings.

As of March 30, local judges have filed 89 disqualification memos to avoid doubts about their partiality.

The first wave of former altar boys filed their lawsuits in the Superior Court of Guam as early as Nov. 1, 2016, but started moving their cases to the U.S. District Court of Guam in January.

Local court judges said they have familial or business ties to either the plaintiffs or the defendants, court documents show.

But since March 9, the local court started seeing new cases.

Clynt Ridgell, director of Policy Planning and Community Relations at the Judiciary of Guam, said in a case in which all Superior Court judges have been disqualified, the presiding judge will send a request to the chief justice to assign a judge pro-tempore.

Ridgell said both Magistrate Judge Alberto E. Tolentino and Magistrate Judge Benjamin Sison could be assigned as substitute judges.

“If they were to recuse themselves, then the chief justice can assign a judge pro-tempore from outside of the Superior Court of Guam,” Ridgell said.

A review of disqualification memos filed between Nov. 10, 2016 and March 30, 2017 shows Guam’s trial court judges have already recused themselves from hearing anywhere between two and 14 clergy abuse cases.

New recusals

Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena III, Judge Vernon Perez, Judge Arthur Barcinas and Judge Elyze Iriarte recused themselves anew from hearing two clergy sex abuse lawsuits, filed in March.

Four other judges also filed disqualification notices in the first wave of cases.

Lamorena has filed 14 disqualification notices, the latest one was on March 21, in the clergy abuse case filed by former altar boy Anthony Flores. Flores said former priest Louis Brouillard, who was also his scout master in the Boy Scouts of America, sexually abused him in the late 1970s.

Lamorena said the potential involvement in the case of his first cousin and former Archdiocese of Agana chancellor, the Rev. Adrian Cristobal, may provoke speculation and doubt in a reasonable person regarding Lamorena's partiality as the assigned judge in the current matter. The Archdiocese of Agana is named defendant in Flores’ lawsuit.

“This close relationship also presents an appearance of bias, which warrants disqualification,” Lamorena said in his memo.

The presiding judge said his cousin, Cristobal, as chancellor of the archdiocese for many years, worked closely with various members of the clergy in coordinating the archdiocese’s activities.

Judge Barcinas, meanwhile, has filed seven disqualification notices, the latest was on March 20, involving the case filed by former altar boy Michael Chargualaf. Chargualaf's lawsuit says Brouillard sexually abused him on his first day as an altar boy around 1975. The sexual abuse continued when Chargualaf joined the Boy Scouts.

In his previous disqualification memos, Barcinas said his late uncle, Deacon Jeff Barcinas, appears to have been a secretarial staff to Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron during a potentially relevant period. Apuron is also facing multiple clergy sex abuse lawsuits and is undergoing a Vatican canonical penal trial.

Judge Iriarte said she is within the third degree of relationship with someone who personally knows and has interacted with Brouillard. The judge said this family member claims to have witnessed Brouillard engage in acts similar to those described in former altar boy Anthony Flores' complaint.

"Finally, prior to becoming a judge of the Superior Court of Guam, I counseled this family member on a potential claim concerning what this family member witnessed and experienced. For these reasons, my impartiality as a judge may reasonably be questioned, and I will disqualify myself from these proceedings," Iriarte said in her 12th disqualification memo.

As of March 30, Guam has 39 clergy sex abuse lawsuits, made possible by a law signed on Sept. 23, 2016 lifting the statute of limitations on civil cases alleging child sexual abuse. The law allows accusers to also sue the institutions they believe knew about and enabled the abuse.

Of these cases, 33 are in federal court, but 15 of them were originally filed in local court.

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

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment