Guam – The governor’s office is asking the superior court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office against the Department of Rev and Tax and the governor’s office over the reissuance of licenses for over 200 gaming devices.
Both Governor’s counsel, Atty. Sandra Miller and D&D Games counsel Curtis Van De Veld argued that a conflict of interest exists because it can’t simply choose to represent itself when the agency they are suing is also their own client.
The governor’s legal counsel, Sandra Miller is asking Superior Court Judge Arthur Barcinas to throw out a case the Attorney General’s Office filed seeking judgment against gaming devices the AG maintains are illegal. Miller went into detail about the convoluted nature of the case, but ultimately, she asked Judge Barcinas to, at the very least, disqualify the AG’s Office from representing itself.
Attorney Curtis Van De Veld, who represents D&D Games, one of the respondents named in the lawsuit, made similar arguments in court today.
“In some of the prior litigation they were on different sides of the lawsuit and ultimately the Office of the Attorney General undertook to represent both parties. When they do that the rules of ethics say that an attorney who represents multiple parties, if one of the parties becomes in disagreement with the others, the attorney is disqualified from representing any of the parties and has to withdraw from representation,” he points out.
Miller made the argument that when the AG’s Office filed suit against DRT, it was filing a lawsuit against its own client.
But Assistant Attorney General Pat Mason points out that the Attorney General in this particular case never represented Rev& Tax. He also says it would defeat the purpose of an elected attorney general if it can’t enforce actions against agencies it represents.
But even Judge Barcinas alluded to a conflict. He asked Mason who should represent DRT in this case, since it is the AG’s statutory obligation to do so. Mason stated that Rev and Tax could simply hire independent counsel, but Miller disagreed. She says that because the AG’s Office has a statutory duty to represent DRT, if it enters into a conflict with an agency it wants to sue, it must be disqualified from representing itself because it can’t just pick and choose which client to represent. Van De Veld explains further.
“The Attorney General in litigation and has cast their other prior clients out to the wind and said, ‘Well you gotta figure out how you’re gonna deal with this on your own, it’s not our problem.’ That’s exactly what lawyers are not supposed to do, and so the office of the governor filed a motion for disqualification. The other defendants in the case have joined,” he says.
Mason told Judge Barcinas that if the Department of Rev and Tax insisted on having the AG’s Office represent them, they could put it in writing and consent to waive any conflict of interest.
Judge Barcinas says, however, that the court would not be able to distinguish the attorney general as a party and as legal counsel.
Judge Barcinas took the motion under advisement, but indicated that the difficulty he has in making a decision is in reconciling dual roles within the ethical codes of conduct.
Mason countered that the courts have held in the past that in similar cases, the public’s interest always prevails.