Chief judge hears arguments in plebiscite civil suit - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Chief judge hears arguments in plebiscite civil suit

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood spent the afternoon hearing arguments in Dave Davis' lawsuit against the government and the Guam Election Commission. The arguments all center around whether Davis' case is ripe for judicial review.

Arnold "Dave" Davis was a no show at this afternoon's hearing on his objections to a report that recommends the dismissal of his lawsuit filed against the government and the Guam Election Commission.  His attorney, J. Christian Adams, presented arguments this afternoon trying to convince the judge that his client's constitutional rights have been violated by Guam law that does not allow him to participate in the plebiscite.  Adams showing the court a copy of his client's voided Guam Decolonization Registry application. 

Guam law only allows descendants of native inhabitants of the territory dating back to 1950 to participate in the vote, but Attorney Adams argued that the Constitution, the Organic Act, and the Voting Rights Act all provide that every citizen be treated equally and have the same political voice.  The government has argued that because no date has been set for the plebiscite and the 70% threshold for eligible voters has not yet been met, Davis has suffered no injury.

Adams disagrees, saying "This court had standing from the moment the Legislature passed the law... The moment the law relegated some citizen to a second class citizen is when an injury occurred."

Adams adding the government is expected to treat everyone fairly and that "Nobody can be denied because they don't have the right bloodlines...this is about treating everyone on the island equally.  It's not a case of him trying to silence anybody but it's a case about being treated equally...race has no place in any political process."

Assistant Attorney General Rob Weinberg meanwhile contends that there's a chance Guam will never even have a plebiscite which he contends makes the case not ripe for review. "The fact that the plebiscite has been set and reset for the last 14-16 years is proof that we don't know if and when it will ever be held." Weinberg also said that Davis has suffered no injury for not being able to register for something he stressed is only advisory and non-binding and would in no way impact the plaintiff's political rights.  He said "just because you don't like something doesn't mean you have sufficient injury to bring a case to court."  

Attorney Julian Aguon, who represents University of Guam professor and local historian Ann Hattori, who has been deemed a friend of the court and allowed to weigh in on the case, told the court that the condition precedents that require 70% of eligible voters to register, another that requires a full public education campaign, and position papers to be drafted on the three political status options have all not yet been met and until such time they are, the case should not be before the court. 

Judge Tydingco Gatewood took the arguments under advisement.

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