Public Defender appointed to represent all incoming quarantine passengers

The Guam Public Defender Service (PNC file photo)

There are at least 30 COVID-19 petitioners who have brought their claims of being quarantined against their will to Judge Elyze Iriarte’s courtroom. The Superior Court judge told the Department of Public Health and Social Services that evidence in case after case has shown that Public Health isn’t doing its job in letting travelers know what rights they have upon entry.

Arriving travelers are told that they must quarantine at a government facility for a mandatory 14-days, and in each case brought before Superior Court Judge Elyze Iriarte, the evidence has shown that these people were not told they have another option besides criminal prosecution upon entry to Guam.

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In a consolidated hearing of the quarantine cases, Judge Iriarte addressed the constitutional violation of rights related to involuntary quarantine, telling public health, “I’m sorry but Public Health isn’t doing their job in notifying these persons. They are not qualified or they’re not doing it correctly, so I am sending an advisor until I know there is another procedure.”

Attorney for the government, James Canto questioned the judge’s order saying that they have over a hundred travelers in a government quarantine facility that isn’t being contested indicating that these cases represent only a fraction. Saying she felt like they’re going in circles, Judge Iriarte answered that those that Public Health garnered voluntary consent from were in fact not voluntary.

“I’m not going to change my mind on this, I am appointing counselor for these people who are about to be quarantined because the procedure so far has not been adequate in allowing people to understand whether or not it’s voluntary or not and what their rights are.”

The Guam Public Defender Service was appointed to represent all incoming passengers. Public Defender lawyer Stephen Hattori has been ordered to be present each time Public Health is going to quarantine an arriving traveler. Iriarte says she is using this opportunity to ensure that travelers are advised of their rights.

This afternoon, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero made a change to the government quarantine protocols for incoming travelers.

“Effective noon on Saturday Sept. 26 all incoming travelers will be quarantined at a government facility. On day 6, they will be administered a test and upon receiving negative test result they will be allowed to continue to quarantine at home,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor says they are complying with the court’s orders and have been doing so for about a week.

“Since the first decision was made, the judge did say that we needed to improve in making sure that the travelers need to know their due process. Since then, I know that Public Health has been complying with the order of the judge. We are now giving them the necessary documents and instructions and the necessary information for them to decide to make a choice of what they would like to do with that information,” the governor said.





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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.