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Carbullido stresses preservation of Judiciary

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam issued his State of Judiciary Address, during which the Honorable F. Philip Carbullido stressed throughout his speech that the Judicial Branch of the Government of Guam is not a separate and co-equal branch primarily because of funding issues. In his address the chief justice talked about seeking an amendment to the Organic Act of Guam.

In this excerpt from his speech, he discussed the history of how the Judiciary of Guam was established as a separate and co-equal branch of government and what steps need to be taken in the future to ensure it is adequately funded.

The Organic Act of Guam, which serves as our constitutional document did not always provide for a judicial branch. Indeed while the Organic Act established the legislative and executive branches it vested the legislature with the power to both create an abolishment of the Judicial Branch. In 2002 I delivered the state of judiciary address on behalf of my colleague, former chief justice Peter C. Sigeuzna.

In that address I conveyed the dangers of the system, as it was, which left the judiciary vulnerable to the political whims of elected leaders the amendment we proposed to congress established Guam's judiciary as an independent coequal branch of government. The proposal was met with mixed reviews, to say the least. It was criticized by many staunchly opposed by some. Even laughed at by others. Few believed we would succeed in our efforts. But in the end the U.S. Congress heard us and amended the Organic Act.

I share this today not to tout the successful endeavor but to suggest that maybe its time to provide within our de facto constitution the Guam Organic Act a reliable funding structure for the judiciary. I have tried in the past to compare the services the judiciary provides to basic essential infrastructure like power water and roads in an effort to emphasize that the judiciary is similarly essential to maintaining law and order in our island and should be prioritized accordingly; unfortunately analogies are not enough. And I cannot begin to describe the danger that it had gone judicial importance here justice fails so to does governance and the democratic enterprise. We cannot allow this to happen.

This is why I am proposing an amendment to the Organic Act - it is my deep conviction as a juris that this is not a step in defiance of government but rather it is a step in defense of it. I am not naïve I know this is not something that can happen overnight; indeed this is something that may not happen during my judicial career but we need to recognize it as an option and be engaged in serious discussion. Or even debate about its viability as an alternative to the status quo

While I am proud of the positive contributions made by the judiciary in spite of the financial challenges I cannot help to see a situation for what it is, these are serious times and if we are going to survive them and by we I mean all of us we are going to have to be attentive guardians of our individual branches.

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