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Back Local News No to private lawyers in GovGuam cases

No to private lawyers in GovGuam cases

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FEDERAL judges have rejected the Office of the Governor’s attempts to replace the Attorney General’s Office with private lawyers in two government cases.

The AGO filed two separate motions in the District Court of Guam for the nine-year-old solid waste case that resulted in a consent decree, and the two-year-old tax refund class action filed by Rea Mia Liza Paeste.

The AGO provided no justification for its request to relinquish its representation of the government to two attorneys from two different law offices.

On April 26, Deputy Attorney General J. Patrick Mason filed a motion naming private attorney Rawlen M.T. Mantanona and the governor’s chief legal counsel, Sandra C. Miller, as the substitute attorneys for the government in the consent decree that mandated the closure of Ordot Dump and the creation of the Layon Landfill.

Mantanona is a senior partner at Cabot Mantanona LLP.

On April 29, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Orcutt filed a similar motion seeking to relinquish the tax refund case to Genevie P. Rapadas and William N. Hebert, attorneys at Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLP.

Rejected

The filing for the solid waste case was not signed by Gov. Eddie Calvo as required by the court’s procedural requirement.

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood was displeased by the government attorneys’ noncompliance with the procedure and by Mason’s failure to provide a reason for the substitution request after nine years of representing the government.

“The government of Guam, through the appointment of a receiver, has made substantial progress in complying with the consent decree by opening a solid waste municipal landfill at Layon. The court understands that the design plans for the closure of Ordot Dump are close to being approved,” the judge said.

“The Office of the Attorney General has worked closely with the receiver (Gershman, Brickner & Bratton) and bond counsel to obtain financing and ensure that the bond proceeds are appropriately used for their intended purposes,” Tydingco-Gatewood stated in the order rejecting the motion.

The chief judge further said GBB has been working closely with the newly appointed Solid Waste Management Authority Board to ensure an eventual smooth transition, and noted that a change of counsel at this stage will delay the progress. “New counsel will need time to get up to speed,” Tydingco-Gatewood added.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall also rejected the requested substitution of attorneys in the Paeste case and ordered Orcutt and Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas to continue the counsel of the government of Guam.

Marshall also said the notice filed by Orcutt and signed by Rapadas and the AGO’s representative “is deficient” and “not in compliance with the court's local rules of practice.”

The governor, under the Organic Act of Guam, is the executive officer of the territory with general supervision and control of all the departments, bureaus, agencies and other instrumentalities. The governor is the main defendant in both cases.

The Organic Act also provides that the AGO is the chief legal officer of the government of Guam, and the Guam Legislature had enacted legislation prohibiting the execution of contracts for the legal services in the executive branch without the AGO’s approval.

In 2005, then-Attorney General Douglas Moylan sued the Guam International Airport Authority for contracting a private law firm, citing the extra cost of retaining private law firms.

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