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Supreme Court panel will hear motion to expedite

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Three cases, three courts one big issue: whether the Guam Election Commission's certification of the Decision 2010 gubernatorial race should be declared null and void.  A request has now been made in the island's highest court, as the Democratic gubernatorial team isn't giving up on their claims that the election isn't over.

A panel of Supreme Court justices has agreed to hear arguments on an emergency motion to expedite the briefing schedule and oral arguments for a writ of mandamus request filed by former governor Carl Gutierrez and Senator Frank Aguon, Jr.  

The panel, consisting of Chief Justice Robert Torres, Associate Justice Kathryn Maraman and CNMI Pro-Tem Justice Miguel Demapan, will hold a hearing on Thursday afternoon.  On Tuesday evening Gutierrez and Aguon's attorney, David Lujan, filed the writ request, asking Guam's high court to vacate and expunge the Guam Election Commission board's certification of the gubernatorial election results that declared Eddie Calvo and Ray Tenorio the winners.

The governor-elect and lieutenant governor-elect's legal counsel, Attorney Mike Phillips, said, "I think that the interesting thing about their petition is they're not asking to overturn the election. They're asking for the written certification on November 6, which appears to be undisputed that that be vacated." He added, "They're not alleging that what may be a number of invalid, members acting without authority, in any way effects the election.

"Bottom line: it doesn't change the results."

Phillips says he'll appear in court tomorrow afternoon asking why the parties are being brought to court, saying, "We will ask why are we here in the first place?"

Attorney Lujan has argued that the Guam Supreme Court must act immediately because the issue is of great public importance that must be resolved promptly, specifically prior to inauguration day on January 3. The petitioners claim that all seven board members of the GEC were not appointed in compliance with Guam law and they were "unlawfully appointed" making their actions null and void. 

Court documents list the appointment dates for each of the GEC board members and Attorney Lujan takes issue with the members not having a "duly passed resolution" from their respective political parties as required by local law.

Phillips, a former Democratic Party of Guam chairman, is familiar with the nomination process. "I don't remember formal resolutions, but the manner in which we nominate is a little bit different. That's an internal party matter. There's never been a single challenge to any appointment I've ever made and I served for three terms," he said. ""It seems awkward at best that people come in after the election and say well you know you weren't certified. Well, that was known two, three, four, five, six years ago and it seems like it would cause a huge problem if someone were to say that all of their acts were null and void. It would affect judges sitting here; it would effect previous senators, laws."

But Phillips stresses again that Gutierrez and Aguon have not asked that the election results be changed and it's now up to the court to decide if the inauguration of Calvo and Tenorio will constitute irreparable harm.

GEC legal counsel Rawlen Mantanona says he hasn't had time to review the writ request as they were served a copy this morning, explaining, "It would be improper for me to comment until I've had proper time to review them and discuss them with my client and see their position."

During today's brief status hearing, Justice Maraman disclosed that she is a close friend of board member Martha Ruth. While the parties were given until this afternoon to file statements of objection on the members of the panel hearing the case, none of them expressed any concerns with the makeup of the panel.

Attorneys for the GEC board members and Calvo and Tenorio have until 8:30 Thursday morning to file their responses to the motion to expedite the briefing schedule, while Gutierrez and Aguon's attorney has until high noon to file a response. Justices are scheduled to hear the case at 3pm Thursday.

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