Courts not yet ready to resume in-person trials; Zoom platform to be used

Guam Judicial Center (PNC file photo)

Neither the Judiciary of Guam nor the District Court of Guam will resume in-person trials this month.

Both courts have remained open for limited services throughout the ongoing pandemic. And both have recently eased some restrictions to provide more services, but in-person trials are not part of the plan yet.

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During a virtual proclamation signing for Law Week 2020 Tuesday afternoon, Chief Justice Phil Carbullido of the Superior Court of Guam and District Court Chief Justice Frances Tydingco-Gatewood both said they’re not ready to resume scheduling trial dates yet.

“Right now, the plan is not to resume any in-person jury trials until at least August 1st. And the main reason for that is because of our concern for the safety and security of the jurors and of course the personnel at the Judiciary. The facility that we have doesn’t permit us to comfortably feel that we can social distance in a safe manner. So, we are in the process of trying to get larger facilities,” Carbullido said.

Frances Tydingco Gatewood, District Court Chief Justice, added: “We don’t know if we’ll have trial in July or August. I’ve already said that we’re not going to have trial in June. I think it’s very fluid. And I think it’ll depend on if the Governor continues to contain the COVID virus. It looks more hopeful but people are saying I don’t want to come unless you’ve got a vaccine.”

Today’s Law Day – Law Week proclamation was signed by Governor Lou Leon Guerrero who said that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has provided us all with a lesson on the importance of the rule-of-law.

“Of course, I’m referring to the law that allowed me as Governor during this crisis to have the authority to, in an emergency situation, declare our public health act which gave me the tools that I needed,” the governor said.

She added: “As a result of that law, we were allowed and permitted to do things that maybe people think might not be within the law. But it certainly is within the law.”

The theme of Law Week is “Your vote, your voice, your democracy.”

Superior Court Administrative Order 20-265

Late this afternoon, Chief Justice Carbullido issued an administrative order announcing that the Judiciary of Guam has secured a number of Zoom licenses. And his order states that “court hearings and proceedings shall be conducted using the Zoom platform,” unless otherwise indicated by a judicial officer.

In addition, Justice Carbullido states in his order that “it shall be the responsibility of attorneys and litigants to download and familiarize themselves with the Zoom application.”