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State of Judiciary Address delivered

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The Guam Legislature was packed with island dignitaries and court employees Thursday evening as Supreme Court of Guam Chief Justice Robert Torres delivered the annual State of Judicary Address. The Chief Justice presented the many initiatives that are being implemented in the judciary as well as how its role has evolved over the years.Among the iniatives the Judiciary is undertaking is the establishment of the Veterans Treatment Court. According to the Chief Justice the VTC focuses on rehabilitation and treatment, rather than incarceration. Created specifically to help veterans who have been charged with a criminal offense, the VTC recognizes that this discrete group of offenders is special – they are our active duty and citizen soldiers who, having returned from deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat theaters, struggle with post-traumatic stress, brain trauma, anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, and unemployment as they re-acclimate to civilian life – sometimes with great difficulty. Eligible veterans who meet certain clinical and legal criteria will receive services and intensive supervision through a collaborative effort that involves prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, veterans benefit service providers, and court staff, as well as peer mentors who share similar military service experiences,” the Chief Justice said. The Judiciary is working with the local and federal government to meet the goal of opening the VTC by early next year.

Chief Justice Torres also discussed a “justice gap” that the Judiciary cannot alone fill. In this gap he said are those who may have minor legal issues, but who cannot qualify for legal assistance or afford to hire an attorney. He announced the Judiciary in conjunction with the Guam Bar Association would like to collaborate with the University of Guam and the Guam Community College to pursue a program for the licensing and regulation of Limited License Legal Technicians that would engage in very discrete, limited scope activities involving small claims, family law, and real estate related problems. “We must acknowledge that there is a vast pool of people with certain legal problems who need assistance. Legal offices, such as Guam Legal Services – especially with their recent budget cuts – simply do not have the ability to serve the majority of those who need but cannot afford legal help. The establishment of a Limited License Legal Technician program holds the promise of narrowing the justice gap for low and moderate income people   who have relatively uncomplicated small claims, family law, and real estate issues,” the Chief Justice stated.

The Chief Justice concluded that the state of the judiciary is motivated and optimistic about the future, “ and we look forward to a productive and meaningful working relationship with the legislative and executive branches as we prepare to meet the changes we must all face together in the years ahead.” 
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