Non-state week 2014: Guam – delinking judicial salaries from legislative ones; changing Chief Justices terms

Among the bills being considered by the 32nd Guam Legislature (Liheslaturan Guåhan) affecting the courts are:

Bill 307-32 Authorizes Judicial Council to adopt pay schedules and plans for salary and benefit increases for non-law enforcement employees of the judiciary. Appropriates $510,000 for same. Passed Liheslaturan Guåhan 6/16/14. Signed into law 6/24/14.

Bill 276-32 Eliminates practice where salary of Guam Senators is automatically set as 50% of Superior Court of Guam Judge’s salary. In Rules Committee.

HB 243 – 32 Implements law enforcement pay adjustments for law enforcement within Unified Judiciary of Guam. In Appropriations Committee.

HB 161 – 32 Creates veterans courts within the Judiciary of Guam. Passed Liheslaturan Guåhan 11/12/13. Signed into law 11/27/13.

HB 144 – 32 Requires Department of Administration identify funds necessary to address merit bonus compensation for Judiciary of Guam employees. In Appropriations Committee.

HB 39 -32 Repeals existing law that no Chief Justice may succeed himself or herself in office. Allows Chief Justice to serve two successive terms and allows Chief Justice to serve again after at least one full term has intervened. In Judiciary Committee.

Non-state week 2014: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

In 2011 Gavel to Gavel began a semi-regular practice of focusing a week on these specific non-states and that practice continues for a week starting today.

Guam State of the Judiciary: “One of the wisest investments of time and resources that our government can make is making our court system as hospitable and secure as possible”

Guam’s Chief Justice, F. Philip Carbullido, delivered his 2012 State of the Judiciary Address on May 1, 2012 to the 31st Guam Legislature (Liheslaturan Guåhan).

Portions of the Chief Justice’s Address are below:

Preserving Our Mission, Protecting the Rule of Law: A fair, efficient, and fully functioning court system provides businesses with the necessary confidence to invest in an area, by ensuring that their investments are fully protected under the rule of law… The protection provided by the court system is what makes it possible for our citizens to innovate and enjoy the fruits of their labor, while protecting their rights and the rights of others; it is what attracts investors and it’s what gives our local people the security they need to venture into business in the hopes of growing our economy and improving their standard of living.

CMS: For the Judiciary, the new CMS means that we can more effectively allocate our workload and maintain the most efficient operation possible… The Judiciary is moving with the national trend of becoming a paper-on-demand court. As part of Phase II of our CMS, we will implement e-filing in the Superior Court – an option that, until now, has only been available in the Supreme Court.

Strategic Plan: The Judiciary’s Strategic Plan is our way forward, our blueprint for the next 3 – 5 years. It’s how we know where we need to be, and it’s the surest set of directions on how to get there… Many of our strategic projects are focused on solutions designed to address all issues of timeliness – from getting a case moved through the system more quickly, to decreasing the time it takes to complete routine court business.

Program Highlights: The Judiciary of Guam succeeds today because our extraordinary employees and community partners come together in productive ways to make our system of justice work better tomorrow than it does today … A staggering 9,294 cases were filed in the Superior Court in 2011, including 2,027 criminal Cases… I would be remiss if I did not mention our specialty courts and the judges and employees who staff these courts… By providing “wrap around services,” we are able to target the underlying problems that lead people into the criminal justice system.

Concluding Thoughts: The Judiciary of Guam serves a very important function in our community and we are committed to providing quality, reliable, and accessible justice to all Guam’s residents and businesses… We rely on the collective support of the Legislature and the Governor in order to continue fulfilling our mission, and to ensure that our justice system remains accessible, reliable, and stable. I am acutely aware – and very much appreciate – that funding is tight for everyone. But by design of our system of government, the people of Guam depend on you to provide. We rely on the collective support of the Legislature and the Governor in order to continue fulfilling our mission, and to ensure that our justice system remains accessible, reliable, and stable. I am acutely aware – and very much appreciate – that funding is tight for everyone. But by design of our system of government, the people of Guam depend on you to provide.

 

Non-state week 2012: Guam

Among the bills being considered by the 31st Guam Legislature (Liheslaturan Guåhan) affecting the courts are:

Bill 347-31 Authorizes the hiring of retirees in the Judiciary of Guam and allowing such retirees to continue to receive their regular retirement annuities while so employed.  In Committee on Appropriations, Taxation, Public Debt, Banking, Insurance, Retirement and Land.

Bill 446-31 Removes Presiding Judge of Superior Court and others from list of government officials who may travel off the island at government expense. In Committee on Youth, Cultural Affairs, Procurement, General Governmental Operations and Public Broadcasting.

Bill 455-31 Authorizes the Judiciary of Guam to submit requests for criminal history checks to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for all Guam Americorps volunteers. In Committee on Public Safety, Law Enforcement and Judiciary.

Non-state week 2012: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

In 2011 Gavel to Gavel began an annual practice of focusing a week on these specific non-states and that practice continues for a week starting today.

Guam State of the Judiciary: Trying to achieve “justice that works”, proposed amendment to Organic Act for judicial funding

The National Center for State Courts has an archive of 2011, 2010, and previous years State of the Judiciary addresses located here.

So far, every State of the Judiciary address mentioned has been for a state. On April 26, however Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido of the Supreme Court of [the Territory of] Guam gave his address to the unicameral Guam Legislature (Liheslaturan Guåhan).

Highlights of the the Chief Justice’s speech (full text here) included:

Introduction

As I prepared my remarks, I found myself reflecting quite seriously on the nature of these addresses. It has become a tradition with Justices across the country to use this opportunity to present bold initiatives and grand proposals. Indeed, in the past, other Chief Justices, myself included, have often used this occasion to pronounce upon the Big. Big plans. Big projects. Big vision. In many ways, however, we find ourselves in an arrestingly new historical moment.

As I reflected on the Judiciary’s place in our tripartite government, I found myself reciting over and over in my mind the basic principles I learned in junior high school civics classes. We the People. Representative democracy. Three separate but co-equal branches. So, while it may seem rather basic, particularly to the esteemed lawmakers in the room, I would like to begin today with a little civics lesson. It is my thinking that this small digression will help frame the issues I will discuss in turn, relative to the responsiveness, challenges, and needs of our judicial branch.

Budgets, Priorities, Leadership

From a substantially reduced budget, we are still only averaging less than 80% of the cash allotments that are due to us. Despite the passage of a public law which was intended to guarantee the payment to the Judiciary of a percentage of its cash allotments based on revenue collected by the Government of Guam, the Judiciary’s shortfalls continue…Notwithstanding, I have been informed that, even if we receive 100% of our allotments
for the remainder of the fiscal year (which in itself is a big “IF”), we will still be around half a million dollars in the red.

As the head of the judicial branch, it is my responsibility to report to our policymakers and to the people of Guam on the state of your Judiciary.

Challenged, Yet Responsive

We are responding…with focus and resolve: by being innovative in hard times, by living within our means, by our self-imposed austerity measures, by returning to the details, by getting back to basics and providing our community with a justice system that works.What I mean by “justice that works” is a justice system that is operational, a system that is effective and efficient, a system that is both adjudicatory and therapeutic, a system that is collaborative with other entities and involved in our community, and a system that is accessible to all.

Despite these financially trying times, the Judiciary is arguably better placed to continue to thrive because we are forward-looking…We continue to set the bar high in being responsive and providing quality service in the face of economic hardship. We do this by adjudicating cases in a fair, impartial, prompt, and respectful manner.

In an effort to keep our employees more accountable and productive, we are revising our employee evaluation system. We are considering adopting an evaluation system that is goal oriented.

Sorely Needed Upgrades

But perhaps the most significant development to report today with regard to our increased effectiveness and efficiency is the new Case Management System that will soon be implemented. This is a sorely needed upgrade. Finding the right computer system capable of updating our archaic green-screen-based system is the 21st century equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack…Hand-in-hand with our CMS upgrade is the improvements made by our Management Information Systems division.

Adjudicative and Therapeutic Services

When everyday citizens think of our courts, they probably conjure up the classic images of the courtroom: black-robed judges, suited attorneys, and defendants anxiously awaiting verdicts. In short, crime and punishment. However, the Judiciary is not simply adjudicative in function.

Because our cases rarely involve a single harm or problem, the Judiciary has had to create services to assist individuals affected by various sorts of judicial involvement…Between Client Services and Probation, the Judiciary provides daily assistance to drug addicts and theft victims alike, through a complex array of services such as individual and family counseling, group counseling, couples/conciliation, and in-house consultation. In addition to these, the Judiciary obtained a federal grant last year to enhance Guam’s Domestic Violence Court under Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena…In 2010, the Judiciary also expanded its therapeutic reach by adding yet another specialty court, known as the DWI Court, for offenses involving Driving While Intoxicated…We are also committed to being a cooperative community partner…The Judiciary also plays a vital role in promoting the understanding of our legal system by continuing to implement law-related education programs for our youth.

We know the Judiciary’s priorities may never be fully shared by the governor or the senators. For as long as there is something out there that our elected leaders find more important or more pressing – and there is good reason to believe there always will be – the Judiciary, to put it bluntly, will continue to be short-changed.

An Alternative Funding Structure

The Organic Act of Guam, which serves as our constitutional document, did not always provide for a judicial branch. Indeed, while the Organic Act established the legislative and executive branches, it vested the Legislature with the power to both create and abolish the judicial branch.

In 2002, I delivered the State of the Judiciary Address on behalf of my colleague, former Chief Justice Peter C. Siguenza. In that address, I conveyed the dangers of the system as it was, which left the Judiciary vulnerable to the political whims of elected leaders. The amendment we proposed to Congress established Guam’s Judiciary as an independent, co-equal branch of government. The proposal was met with mixed reviews, to say the least. It was criticized by many, staunchly opposed by some, even laughed at by others. Few believed we would succeed in our efforts. But in the end, the United States Congress heard us and amended the Organic Act.

I share this today not to tout this successful endeavor but to suggest that maybe it is time to provide within our de facto constitution, the Guam Organic Act, a reliable funding structure for the Judiciary. I have tried in the past to compare the services the Judiciary provides to basic essential infrastructure, like power, water, and roads, in an effort to emphasize that the Judiciary is similarly essential to maintaining law and order in our island – and should be prioritized accordingly. Unfortunately, analogies are not enough. And I cannot begin to describe the danger that a gaunt Judiciary portends. Where justice fails, so too does governance and the democratic enterprise. We cannot allow that to happen. This is why I am proposing an amendment to the Organic Act. It is my deep conviction as a jurist that this is not a step in defiance of government, but rather, it is a step in defense of it.

Conclusion

While I am proud of the positive contributions made by the Judiciary in spite of our financial challenges, I cannot help but see a situation for what it is. These are serious times and if we are going to survive them – and by we I mean all of us – we are going to have to be attentive guardians of our individual branches. I trust that the Judiciary’s self-imposed austerity measures, as well as our consideration for possible shortened work weeks in the near future, convey how serious your third branch of government is in being a watchful keeper of its own corner.

Non-state week 2011: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

This week will be dedicated to rectifying that oversight, starting today with a look at the Chief Justice of Guam’s state of the judiciary and his proposal to put a new form of judicial funding in the territory’s “Organic Act” (effectively, the constitution for the territory).