Guam – Law week continues with the Judiciary’s annual Appellate Outreach Oral Arguments held before over three hundred high school students, and guests. This year’s featured case is Governor Eddie Baza Calvo versus the Legislature a case which fits squarely with this year’s theme is Separation of Powers.
The question before the Judiciary is whether or not the Supreme Court of Guam should step in to offer a remedy for the Governor and Legislature or if the matter political and in doing so would it be a violation of the Separation of Powers.
The Governor has requested the Supreme court order a Write of mandamus, mandating the legislature to transmit the bill 1-S also known as the Tran bill to his office.
The legislation authorizes a borrowing instrument called a tax revenue anticipation note (TRAN) so tax refunds can be paid quicker. Similar to a payday loan, the issuance is borrowed against money the government knows it will receive throughout a fiscal year. Today’s hearing focused on the Legislature’s motion to dismiss.
“The case is moot the Legislature reconsidered its action on the bill in question therefore there is nothing to transmit. The relief requested in the Writ of Mandamus can not be granted. Second this case violates separation of powers and presents a non-justiciable political question,” argued Julian Agoun.
The Legislature’s legal representative argues that “the governor is asking this court to enter into a political battle and force the hand of the legislature, we ask the court to not do so.”
Chief Justic Philip Carbillido quickly had questions on the issue of the case being moot. Stating, “If we assume that we have jurisdiction and assume that the bill should have been presented to governor how does a subsequent action of the legislature voting a second time affect how this court can present a remedy?”
In the previous ruling of the court, The Supreme Court distinctly declined to rule on whether bill 1(1-S) did get enough votes to pass. And without a clear mandate by the Supreme Court, Legislative Secretary Sen. Regine Biscoe-Lee refused to transmit the bill to the governor for action.
“Their argument regarding moot, the Legislature did not like the implications that their vote was inorganic and re-voted then it had gone the other way,”stated the Governor’s attorney.
But Chief Justice Carbillido pointed out that her argument was based on the ground that the bill in fact was passed. An error as the court did not decide that, they only addressed the tension between the organic law and the rules.
There fore the question remains as to whether the bill was passed and required presentation.
In court the Chief Justices noted that there is no evidence that the Speaker or the Legislative Secretary confirmed the passage of the bill.
Further stating that any question on passage is a political one not judicial.
Meanwhile the Governors Attorney Sandra Cruz argued that the bill indeed passed and that the legislature willfully sat on the bill.
Pointing out that while the Legislature apparently has the discretion in time to transmit the bill, the Governor only has 10 days from the transmission to veto the bill otherwise it would lapse into law.