Judiciary not a 3rd co-equal branch of GovGuam - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Judiciary not a 3rd co-equal branch of GovGuam

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Delivering his first State of the Judiciary Address as he begins his third term as chief justice of the Guam Supreme Court, F. Philip Carbullido went back to the basics and gave a mini-civics lesson on the importance of what is supposed to be the third co-equal branch of government. 

The chief justice didn't talk about bold and big initiatives instead going back to the basics and focusing on the simple stuff. He started by giving a brief civics lesson on the three separate and co-equal branches of government - judicial, executive and legislative. Carbullido, however, said it's anything but co-equal.

He announced, "The Judicial Branch frequently finds itself as it does now, at the mercy of the other branches at least with respect to the vital issue of funding. If the Legislature has the power of the purse and the governor the power of the pocket, then where does that leave the judiciary?"

Throughout his entire address the chief justice talked about the lack of equality and how the judicial branch has been significantly underfunded to the point where come July if something drastic is not done and fast, additional cuts will have to be made to a budget that's already bare-bones. "This puts us in the unenviable position of deciding whether we prioritize payment of our law enforcement third increment pay adjustment, or whether we resort to 32-hour workweeks for al our employees," he said. "Unless something significant happens in the coming weeks these measures will be implemented as early as July in an effort to diffuse the negative impacts as much as possible."

While he noted that the judiciary is challenged, the chief justice prefaced that by saying it has been responsive, innovative in hard times, living within their means and dealing with self imposed austerity measures. And despite the challenges, the court was still able to upgrade its archaic case management system that will result in a streamlined system making networking and information sharing easier. "The new CMS is one piece of a larger vision to make justice more accessible and affordable for all our citizens, whether they enter the justice system with or without a lawyer. The mission remains the same: meaningful and timely access to court services," Carbullido said.

He also talked about the judiciary's expansion of adjudicative and therapeutic services including the addition of another specialty court, the Driving While Intoxicated Court.

"Under this new docket, DWI cases will be more effectively and expeditiously prosecuted. Consequences for the crime will be more immediate and therefore a violator will be more apt to associate the intoxicated driving with the punishment, creating a deterrent effect and preventing recidivism," he explained.

The chief justice concluded his address by suggesting an alternative funding structure comparing the services of the judiciary with that of utilities and roads that are essential to the island. He continued, "Where justice fails so too does governance and the democratic enterprise. We cannot allow that to happen. That is why I am proposing an amendment to the Organic Act.

"It is my deep conviction as a jurist that this is not a step in defiance of government, but rather, it is a step in defense of it."

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