Noket: Justice Torres under investigation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Noket: Justice Torres under investigation

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KUAM News has confirmed with the President of the Pacific Judicial Council Chief Justice Camillo Noket of the Chuuk State Supreme Court that there is an ethics investigation involving a sitting justice on the Supreme Court of Guam.

In an interview with KUAM News, Justice Noket said he knows of an ongoing ethics investigation into Guam Supreme Court Justice Robert Torres.

“Yes, I’m aware of it, I heard about the Torres incident,” Noket said. “The PJC is very interested in getting the results of the investigation. I have not received any result yet from that investigation.”

The investigation is being conducted on Guam, presumably by Judiciary of Guam Ethics Prosecutor Albert Tolentino, Noket said.

“I’ve heard from other sources that their investigation is going on and I think that’s in the best interest of PJC,” he said.

Meanwhile, Judiciary of Guam Director of Policy, Planning and Community Relations Shawn Gumataotao says when it comes to ethics complaints or investigations of lawyers, judges and even justices, mum’s the word.

“Any and all matters related to judicial discipline are confidential,” Gumataotao said.

KUAM News sent several questions to Judiciary of Guam Ethics Prosecutor Albert Tolentino. We asked if the court had received any complaints against any Guam judges or justices.

“According to the Guam Rules of Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement, all proceedings before the filing and service of formal charges shall be confidential," Tolentino wrote to KUAM News. After the filing and service of formal charges all proceedings shall be public.”

When the investigation is completed, Justice Noket said findings should be forwarded to the Pacific Judicial Council. Based on the local investigation’s findings, members of the Council will decide if any action is warranted against Torres.

The Pacific Judicial Council is comprised of members from Palau, Yap State, the FSM National Court, Kosrae, Pohnpei, the CNMI, Chuuk State and Guam. Justice Torres is a member of the PJC, Noket said.

“We have a procedure. An investigation has to be made, and then it has to come to me as PJC president," Noket said. "It also has to go through the court where that judge is from. When the report comes out, once it comes out, we will take action."

While the ethics investigation process is highly confidential, Tolentino said some circumstances allow an ethics investigation’s details to be released.

“Information may be disclosed when it is determined that there is a need to notify another person to protect that person or to notify a government agency to protect the public or the administration of justice or upon waiver in writing by the judge,” Tolentino wrote.

“The result of the investigation should also not only come to PJC, but it should also go to the Supreme Court of Guam since Torres is one of the Judges of the Supreme Court,” Noket said.

KUAM News asked Tolentino to explain the ethics complaint procedure when a complaint is lodged against a sitting judge or justice.

“Generally, disciplinary counsel receives and screens complaints of judicial misconduct," he wrote. "If the information would not constitute misconduct if true then disciplinary counsel shall dismiss the complaint subject to review by the Committee on Judicial Discipline. If the information raises allegations which if true would constitute judicial misconduct then disciplinary counsel shall conduct a preliminary investigation. The preliminary investigation determines whether grounds exist to believe the allegations or complaints. When disciplinary counsel believes there is evidence supporting the allegations against the judge a recommendation is made to the Committee on Judicial Discipline to authorize a full investigation. After the full investigation, the Committee on Judicial Discipline may dismiss the matter, impose a private admonition or deferred discipline agreement, or order that formal charges be filed. Formal charges are filed with the Special Court and a hearing is conducted before that body. The Special Court shall either dismiss the case or recommend a sanction to the Supreme Court of Guam. The Supreme Court of Guam has final review of the matter and may accept, reject or modify in whole or in part the findings and conclusions of the Special Court."

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