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Torres touches on judicial innovations

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - During his last State of the Judiciary Address, as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Guam, the Honorable Robert Torres called the planned improvements for the Judiciary the "quieter buildup".

Chief Justice Torres spoke about an array of programs and projects the Judicial Branch has planned for the island. Titling his speech "The Role of the Judiciary in Building Up Guam, One Life At A Time," Torres impressed the crowd as he allowed residents to share their stories of how the courts have helped them overcome troubled times.

"The stories in these clips are representative of countless stories: each one different in that each of us must inevitably walk in our own shoes," he said.  "I felt that if I were to write a song with my personal experience that's in the song, maybe there's somebody that would relate to exactly what I'm saying and think twice."

Zone Pangelinan was one of the few who spoke on his experiences with the court's programs after being involved in family violence. The chief justice reported that the court has handled more than 900 cases of family violence in the last year alone. He also stated that over the past three years, there has been a 40% increase in the number of new juvenile cases referred to probation; a number he says is also a result of family violence.

But the one area Torres commends is the Office of Public Guardian, and the efforts it puts in to helping the island's elderly and disabled.  "The OPG staff may be small, but it shoulders a large responsibility, not only helping the public with guardianships but actually managing the financial and personal affairs of 62 adults who can't do so for themselves," said His Honor.

Aside from heightening security measures as the Hagatna facility, the chief justice also spoke about the need to upgrade their technology such as the case management system, which recently received $2.1 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds to help open the doors to justice 247. He also anticipates the implementation of the Criminal Justice Information System, saying, "This system eliminates redundant data entry, saves personnel time, reduces errors, and helps law enforcement to more quickly get criminals off the street."

While they currently have some 300 employees today, Torres says as a result of the recently completed facilities master plan the Judiciary not only needs four additional judges by 2014, but another facility to accommodate population growth from the military buildup.

Governor Felix Camacho, who called his brother-in-law's speech "tremendous", says those plans are in the works, saying, "It's going to involve all three branches of government - they've identified the piece or parcel of land they need up north and I think its on the corner heading up to NCTMS combining with Rev & Tax so that it could be a joint effort, and certainly they have the ability to do that."  Camacho says he supports the move and believes the government campus up north would then allow for the Hagatna court to become a satellite for central residents.

Meanwhile, those who attended today's address, as a whole agreed the chief justice's speech proved to be beneficial for the island and the judicial system. Cynthia Ecube, the president of the Guam Bar Association, said, "I was very impressed with the chief justice commitment on behalf of the Judiciary to ensure that the Judiciary are working hard to people who cannot afford lawyers through their self representation program."

Superior Court Judge Vern Perez added, "I still feel relatively new to the Judiciary and very happy to be a part of it, and I hope I'm doing my part to help. But in the end I thought that the speech was especially good."

Read Chief Justice Torres' address here

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