Supreme Court sends GMI case back to trial court
by Nick Delgado
Guam - The Guam Supreme Court issued an opinion in Guam Music, Inc.'s appeal over the legality of amusement devices such as Uncle Sam and Liberty machines. The matter was remanded back to the trial court.
The Superior Court should have considered the administration and enforcement provisions found in the law that apply to the taxes paid by GMI to operate amusement devices that were deemed illegal. That was the finding of the Guam Supreme Court in an opinion issued on Thursday. Guam Music, Inc. attorney Randy Cunliffe said, "It means Guam Music will get its day in court, they basically ruled that we get to put out our evidence and the court has to decide whether or not these are gambling devices or amusement devices and if they are amusement devices then they have to give us licenses," he said.
In May 2008 the Department of Revenue and Taxation issued GMI license non-renewal notices to operate. GMI appealed in June of that same year and requested the licenses be reissued. At the direction of the governor, the licenses were reissued but in July, the Attorney General demanded DRT revoke the licenses prompting litigation. The AG's Office writ of mandamus request authorizing the revocation of the licenses was granted by the Superior Court while GMI's motion to intervene as well as their request for a new trial was denied.
The trial court said it was unable to identify any possible remedy as the law does not explain how to appeal a determination by DRT that an amusement device is illegal or how to appeal the revocation of a license. The Supreme Court found that GMI is not entitled to a hearing under the Administrative Adjudication Law and reversed the trial court's finding of mootness in both cases.
In the opinion the appellate court found that the trial court didn't consider the administration and enforcement provisions found in the law that apply to the taxes paid by GMI to operate the contested amusement devices. Justices noted that the trial court should have provided GMI with the opportunity to present evidence and arguments on the finding of mootness and in order to do so, it should have determined whether GMI's amusement devices were in fact illegal gambling devices which could have led to the determination of whether the licenses were properly revoked.
When asked when he expected to go back to court Cunliffe said, "It'll take the court a while because technically the AG's Office could file an appeal or a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States or ask the Supreme Court of Guam to reconsider, and they have a period of time to do that so they will issue a mandate back to the Superior Court and Judge (Michael) Bordallo will have to set a hearing for further proceeding and I suspect that will be within about 45 days." He added, "We are pretty happy about it and I think our clients are happy and hope to put forward the proper evidence to show these aren't gambling devices."
The matter was remanded the case to the Superior Court to consider what remedies, if any, are available to GMI under the Business Privilege Tax Law.