GALC case still in limbo - News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GALC case still in limbo

by Lannie Walker

Guam - Original landowners filed out of both sides of the court room this morning after Superior Court Judge Arthur Barcinas heard a motion to dismiss in a civil suit filed against the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. Following the passage of a public law mandating former FAA land and Andy South property be doled out to Tiyan landowners, Attorney Curtis Van De Veld filed suit on behalf of remaining original landowners to prevent the transfer of land to the Tiyan landowners. 

The plaintiffs argued the transfer would only benefit a few ancestral landowners instead of all of them. Tiyan landowners then filed a motion to dismiss the civil suit alleging they are being harmed by not being given the land as provided for by Guam law.

And that is where the landowners from both sides found themselves this morning.

Assistant Attorney General William Bischoff, representing the Ancestral Lands Commission, detailed the basic premise of his argument to dismiss the motion. "That all the property the government holds it holds in what is called a public trust and that the land that was with the Ancestral Lands Commission, the land trust subcommittee, is still held by the government in public trust," he explained. "And it had not been as of yet transferred to any private persons to any individuals as their private property."

Van De Veld countered Bischoff's contention, saying, "The government said, 'We are transferring this property to the GALC and we are telling you to put it in a land bank which is going to a separate private trust.' That's what it says in the statute and they did - that they put it in the Guam land bank."

Therefore, the Guam Legislature could not legally give the land to just the Tiyan landowners. But according to Bischoff, the transfer was just, saying, "Ultimately the land had never been transferred to individuals as their private property it was still held ultimately by the government in private trust and the Legislature was still free to do what it decided to do with this land."

Van De Veld said, "The fact that the Government of Guam acts as a trustee does not mean that they own it."

Tiyan landowner spokesperson Benny Crawford admits the case against GALC will likely not be thrown out and the journey to receive the deeds to the properties may be a long one. "I think they are going to go forward because there where questions raised about constitutional issues so they might go to the Supreme Court there goes another four or five months, but if that the road it has to go it has to go that road," he said.

It's now up to Judge Barcinas to decide whether or not to dismiss the defendants' motion, but it doesn't mean the case is over. Van De Veld says he plans to push his case as far as legally possible.

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