Judge grants TRO in suit against GALC - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Judge grants TRO in suit against GALC

by Lannie Walker

Guam - "Irreparable injury" is what a Superior Court judge believes hundreds of dispossessed ancestral landowners would suffer if the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission complied with the Tiyan land exchange mandated in Public Law 30-158.  While 16 additional families decided to join the class action lawsuit, Tiyan landowners say the matter is far from over.

Saying dispossessed ancestral landowners would suffer such damages, Judge Arthur Barcinas granted a temporary restraining order requested in a class action lawsuit against the ALC.  The decision came down just moments before the Commission was scheduled to meet this afternoon.

Assistant Attorney General William Bischoff delivered the news to commissioners this afternoon.  The judge restrained each of the commissioners from transferring FAA and Marbo properties to Tiyan landowners.  The transfer was mandated by local law, which dispossessed landowners' attorney, Curtis Van De Veld, argues is unconstitutional, inorganic and illegal.

Van De Veld says he is pleased with the decision to grant the restraining order, telling KUAM News, "The court found that there was a substantial likelihood we prevail upon the merits of the case once we go to trial in order to support issuing the temporary restraining order its not conclusive proof, but it is very strong proof."

Attorney for the Tiyan landowners Pete Perez says he's reviewing the judge's order to determine what the next course of action is - but says it is not over yet.  "This order was obtained as a preliminary relief," noted Perez, "but at no time were the affected beneficiaries of the public law, which the plaintiffs in this action attacking given an opportunity to reply or otherwise respond the application they are making.  That certainly would be one issue we will be examining reviewing and raising at a subsequent proceeding before the court."

What it does mean for Tiyan landowners is more waiting.  "They can't issue any deeds, the can't make any transfers," Van De Veld stated.

Tiyan landowners left the ALC meeting today with out further word on when title hearings would - if ever - take place.  They had hoped to get the deeds before the end of the month, but spokesperson Benny Crawford remains optimistic, saying, "We are confident there is nothing that really we could do but allow the court to work its way through finding out the truth and moving forward."

The restraining order stands until the litigation is resolved.  A scheduling conference is scheduled for September 22 when the parties will determine if they will proceed with a hearing on the restraining order or proceed on the merits of the case.

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