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AG continues review of plebiscite case

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As an April 9 deadline quickly approaches, the Attorney General of Guam is still conducting her review on whether to file an appeal in the Dave Davis plebiscite case.  "The decision of the District Court judge was 26 pages, a very well written legal decision," noted AG Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. "So I have to certainly have to applaud the judge for a sound decision, which makes it even harder for us to review what are the issues that we can possibly appeal on."

That appeal is the decision made by Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood in the Dave Davis Plebiscite Case. Earlier this month she ruled that a native-inhabitants only plebiscite would be unconstitutional. Deciding on whether to appeal is still under review by Barrett-Anderson, who says it will be an uphill battle. "So not only are we looking at how to step back into the 9th Circuit with an argument that is legally sound, but beyond the 9th Circuit to develop a case that we might be able then to take on with the Supreme Court with the United States. That's not an easy task, so we haven't thoroughly done all our analyses, but we're continuing to do so," she told KUAM News.

Along with her legal team, she also met with the Governor and Senators this week on the possible appeal. Since the decision, community members have led protests and gave passionate testimony on resolutions in support of an appeal. The AG says an appeal will not be made based on testimony or evidence but rather an appeal on legal argument specifically on the 14th and 15th Amendments.

She continued, "I'm sensitive and conscious of the emotional issues, I'm not insensitive to that, but I have to be able to do my job as attorney general and those issues of legal parameters and not necessarily emotional parameters." She adds any fight through our federal court system is extremely challenging when constitutional rights are in question, especially when the fight involves the right to vote.

"When you have that brick wall in front of you, I think it's wise to look at other options. Because if I'm going into your home and I'm going to fight in your home with the way you set up your house, because I just don't like it, that's going to be a tough battle, right?" she said.

As for the Department of Justice's January Letter to the Governor concerning the Chamorro Land Trust, Barrett Anderson make it clear- she will not be signing a consent decree.

"Ultimately we'll be in court again and I don't know exactly whether we'll be successful or unsuccessful over the justice department taking us to court over the Chamorro Land Trust. That does worry me and we'll have to fight that battle and on that day when it happens," she said.

Meanwhile, as both cases have sparked a new political status debate, the legal battle and possible appeal is one expected to be lengthy. Barrett-Anderson says she has the stamina to take that on. "Am I faint of heart of taking something up to the Supreme Court of the United States? I don't think so. We've done it before - I've done it before.

"And if this is case that has that opportunity to go to the Supreme Court of the United States, I think that would be a wonderful challenge for Guam."

The AG notes that a possible appeal also brings up the matter of costs which she informed both the Governor and Senators is a risk.

“Appealing the case and winning is no problem. I don’t think that’s going to cost the territory a lot of money. But appealing the case and losing is going to cost a lot of money in attorney fees and that would be Mr. Davis’s attorney’s fees.”

She did not have an estimate on the costs.

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