Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo announced his “impending” resignation on Wednesday but according to the Judiciary’s Compiler of Laws, no official resignation has been received.
And while it’s only been two days since the news, the implications his resignation has on cases he presides over is beginning to show.
Geraldine Cepeda, the Judiciary’s Compiler of Laws, said “The next step obviously is to receive something official. We haven’t received anything official from Judge Bordallo yet. But of course, once that happens, cases will need to be reassigned.”
Cepeda said the reassignment of cases can’t happen until they receive official notice.
The effects of Bordallo’s impending resignation has already been demonstrated in at least one case, the retrial of former GPD officer Mark Torre Jr., who stands accused in the shooting death of fellow police officer Elbert Piolo.
The case, which began the jury selection process last week, is now at a standstill as the Judiciary of Guam seeks a conflict of interest-free judge.
Since Bordallo’s announcement two days ago, Judge Elyze Iriarte disqualified herself for a conflict of interest. Judge Anita Sukola did the same.
The case is now assigned to Judge Arthur Barcinas, but no hearing has been calendared. At this time, it is unknown if he, too, will motion for a DQ.
And with the Pacific Judicial Council conference happening next week in Saipan, it may be another week before the jury selection process is picked back up.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve had a controversial case and there have been a number of cases where all of our judges have disqualified themselves for one reason or another. It is up to the Chief Justice who has the authority, I believe, to appoint perhaps somebody from another court. In the Supreme Court, we’ve reached out to Justices from the CNMI and that may happen here, I am not sure … what we do want to guarantee is that each defendant receives a fair trial from an impartial judge,” Cepeda said.
The Torre case isn’t the only case Bordallo presided over, raising the question, what does this mean for the other cases before Judge Bordallo’s courtroom, specifically those who have asserted their right to a speedy trial?
“Every defendant’s constitutional rights will be protected by the Judiciary we will ensure that no one’s rights are violated. Whatever procedures that we have that’s something our case assignment and along with the judges and the clerk of court would work to ensure cases are heard within the constitutional limits,” Cepeda assured.
While last year Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero appointed Dana Gutierrez as the eighth Judge of the Judiciary, she is still waiting for confirmation. Now, with Bordallo leaving, the Judiciary will be back down to seven judges and according to Cepeda the appointment of a judge to replace Bordallo is in the governor’s hands.
The governor’s communications director, Janela Carrera, says that they are aware that Judge Bordallo is stepping down and the matter is under review. But at this time, no decision on his replacement has been made.