Judiciary only received 60% of allotments - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Judiciary only received 60% of allotments

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Awhile back the Judicial Council authorized court management to pursue litigation to get what is owed to the courts as only a percentage of the allotments actually make it into the Judiciary's coffers. While it was considered an option of last resort, as a result, the island's court system just may have reached that point.

For years, the Judiciary of Guam has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to getting their allotments. "$5.5 million out of $9.2 million that's owed, so were told that we are going to get another release this week but that's competing with the general fund payday and the doe payday, so we'll see," noted Court Policy, Planning and Community Relations Director Joshua Tenorio. He says this fiscal year is no different than previous years, as the courts have only received 60% of their allotments, adding, "We're trying to figure out how to survive in the near future like this."

While they wait for more than $4 million that's owed, Tenorio says the lack of funding has impacted operations.  Without the full allotments, the bills are piling up.  From paying for court appointed attorneys to paying marshals and probation officers the remaining part of the law enforcement incentive pay, Tenorio says there's just not enough cash coming in and the Judiciary can't fill vacancies.

"Right now," he stated, "we are in a situation where we are short in clerks in the Courts and Ministerial Section. We would like to have a full-time staffing level for some of the therapeutic courts. We're running month-to-month on the Family Violence Court right now. And also having longer term contracts with therapists, psychiatrists and counselors."

Tenorio explains that the Judiciary is running on an as-needed basis, which has resulted in delays in court-ordered counseling and assessments. "It's no longer the exception that we are going to have a budgetary shortfall or an allotment shortfall. It seems to be the norm," he said.

As a result, the court has been aggressive in getting federal grant money and has been successful in obtaining $12 million in grants to help the judicial infrastructure. Tenorio confirms that administrator of the courts Perry Taitano is expected to meet with Department of Administration director Benita Manglona later this week to determine if there's a likelihood that the Judiciary will be caught up on their allotments.

"Depending on the outcome of that meeting, I would say that it is something that would be considered for the first time. You're right to take this matter and perhaps get a judgment on it," Tenorio said. "We understand the fiscal situation of the whole government but t the very least, without justice we don't have a good business environment that attracts people to invest in the island and on top of that we have to handle these criminal cases to protect our public."

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