Tiyan land exchange remains on hold - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Tiyan land exchange remains on hold

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The Ancestral Lands Commission has moved to have a class action lawsuit filed against it thrown out, but a temporary restraining order still exists preventing the Commission from proceeding with the Tiyan land exchange. Assistant Attorney General William Bischoff, who represents the Commission, filed a motion to dismiss. 

During a scheduling conference today the judge indicated that he will review the motion and determine whether he'll rule based on the briefs filed or if he'll set a hearing for oral arguments. 

Maria Gange, Jesus Cruz Charfauros, Ana Chargualaf, Jesus Aguigui and others filed suit against the GALC as they contend a recently signed public law is unconstitutional and inorganic only benefiting some 72 Tiyan landowners.  But Bischoff contends that's not the case, saying, "The ultimate question here as we see it whether any private property rights have actually been vested became created in the class of persons Mr. [Curtis] Van De Veld wants to represents."

He added, "As we see it, no personal private property rights had yet been created in this land...the Legislature was still free to deal with the land as it chose."

For Tiyan landowners like Benny Crawford the temporary restraining order means another delay in getting land they thought would be given to them as mandated by public law. Tiyan landowners were expecting to be deeded land from the former FAA housing and Marbo properties.  "It's a court process and it has to take its course its just a bump in the road for us guys that are waiting to get our deeds, and its going to take a few months longer," he expained. "But you know, the bottom line is we've waited 60 years we'll wait another two, three months."

While the class of dispossessed ancestral landowners are represented by Attorney Van De Veld, Attorney Mike Phillips appeared in court today indicating he will file a motion to intervene and represent Tiyan landowners like Crawford.  He explained, "It appears to me they're hoping to resolve this case between two people that really have no interest in this land.  I would be surprised if the court didn't allow the people that are truly affected to have a voice in this case.  And like I said, we'll file a motion in the next few days."

Still, Van De Veld feels the Tiyan landowners lack standing, telling KUAM News, "To me, Mr. Crawford and the Tiyan landowners are much like a fence is in a situation with stolen property: the fence is intended to get stolen property and make use of it, but he has no legal rights to the stolen property, legal rights, stolen right are in those rights from who the property was stolen from.  And in this case the thief is GovGuam, who is trying to take the property out of a private land bank and take it and give it to somebody else.

The parties next face off in court is scheduled for December 10.

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