Hearing tackles military service versus serving in AG's Office - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Hearing tackles military service versus serving in AG's Office

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Legislation to amend local law that forces an attorney to choose between serving his country and serving in the Attorney General's Office went up for a public hearing today.

Less than a month after Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Quan was sworn in to serve as a judge advocate in the Guam Army National Guard in 2011, public law was enacted prohibiting attorneys in the Department of Law to engage in the practice of law outside of the agency.  Quan's situation prompted an ethics investigation by the Guam bar. Although Attorney Mitch Thompson is the chairperson of the Guam Bar Ethics Committee he testified during this morning's hearing in his personal capacity.

Thompson said, "I think the proposed change to the section is necessary. I'm glad the Legislature is taking it up."

Bill 253 would remove the prohibition. It's an amendment private attorney Michael Pangelinan, who is Quan's close friend and relative, says is needed but recommended a possible amendment to make the prohibition retroactive.  "The fact that there's a law on the books that could possibly be used as a basis to possibly punish a person like john who has done and continues to do so much to protect and serve our community cries out for prompt action," he said.

Graham Botha is not only a government attorney but also a colonel in the Guam Air National Guard. He supervises Captain Quan as well as Major Vern Perez, a judge in the Superior Court of Guam. He testified in support of Bill 253, adding the military already has guidelines in place regarding potential conflicts. "We have ethic rules that we're required to follow both as a JAG and as a member of the Guam Bar and as such we ensure that there aren't conflicts and if there are we take steps necessary to wall off those attorneys as would any law firm to make sure there aren't any conflicts potential or otherwise that would impact their obligations to do that," he explained.

Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas saw this coming. Matter of fact in July of last year his office issued an opinion regarding the law being unenforceable and inorganic. Today he stood in support of changing the law but recommended an amendment. "I feel the better result would be to go back to the prior statute where barring a conflict of interest barring a disruption in the mission of the office and having the express written authorization of the attorney general, an employee of the AG, any employee staff investigators lawyers may engage in outside work," he said.

Assistant AG Quan said that if push came to shove and he was forced to choose. He would choose service to his country and island. You can read Bill 253 on GuamLegislature.com.

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