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12 23Fri04182014

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SC affirms decision on employee appeal

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THE Supreme Court of Guam has issued an opinion affirming the Superior Court of Guam’s decision dismissing the appeal of an employee of the Department of Agriculture.

In an opinion authored by Associate Justice Katherine Maraman, Associate Justice Robert J. Torres and Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order for the Civil Service Commission to vacate a 2003 judgment and dismiss Patricia Rojas’ appeal to the CSC.

The appeal was filed by Rojas after the Department of Agriculture took adverse employment action against her in 1995. The CSC, however, dismissed Rojas’ appeal with prejudice because she had failed to meet the statutory 20-day filing deadline.

Two years after the dismissal, Rojas moved the CSC to reconsider.

Without any explanation of its jurisdictional basis for hearing the untimely appeal, the CSC reversed its dismissal and entered a judgment in Rojas’s favor.

The department sought a writ of mandamus requiring CSC to vacate its judgment or give a reason for not doing so.

In 2009, the Supreme Court granted the writ of mandamus and directed the Superior Court to order the CSC to either vacate its judgment or demonstrate its jurisdictional basis for granting Rojas’s motion for reconsideration of her appeal.

The Superior Court issued an alternative writ of mandamus in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion.

Neither

In the years since this mandate, the CSC has neither vacated its judgment nor demonstrated its jurisdictional basis for reconsidering Rojas’ appeal. Instead, Rojas filed briefs in the Superior Court that sought to establish CSC’s jurisdiction over her appeal. The CSC silently joined these briefs through counsel, but the CSC commissioners have never voted in response to the writ of mandamus – either to vacate its 2003 judgment or give a reasoned basis for its exercise of jurisdiction.

The trial court ultimately issued a judgment ordering the CSC to vacate its decision and judgment and enter a new decision and judgment dismissing Rojas’ appeal.

The higher court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, because the CSC failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s 2009 opinion or the Superior Court’s subsequent writ of mandamus.

The Supreme Court stressed that agencies must follow the directives of the Supreme and Superior Court of Guam and that the CSC’s governing statute requires an affirmative vote of four members of the commission for any action of the commission.

Without such a vote either vacating the 2003 judgment or establishing a reasoned basis for the CSC’s exercise of jurisdiction, the Supreme Court was compelled to affirm the trial court’s order that the CSC vacate its 2003 judgment, according to a press release from Danielle Rosete, the acting director of Policy, Planning, and Community Relations for the Judiciary of Guam.

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