‘The Guam Judiciary has kept the wheels of justice moving’

The Guam Legislature convened into the Committee of the Whole Friday morning for the 2021 State of the Judiciary Address by Chief Justice Phillip Carbullido.

The State of the Judiciary Address delivered by Chief Justice Philip Carbullido emphasized the Judiciary of Guam’s resiliency and challenges during the pandemic — from instituting online platforms to enable access to court clients and staff to reducing numbers of those placed under in-house detention at DOC.

The Guam Legislature convened into the Committee of the Whole this morning for the 2021 State of the Judiciary Address.

“Four hundred and eleven days have passed since that Sunday afternoon, and I am proud of the way the Judiciary has adapted, adjusted, and kept the wheels of justice moving – maybe not as swiftly as some would like, but moving nonetheless,” Carbullido said

He said the movement forward is attributable to the hard work and commitment of each and every judicial branch employee. This statement drew the first applause from the body. 

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“Senators, Governor, Lt. Governor, people of Guam, I am proud to report that the state of the Judiciary has been, and continues to be, motivated and mission-driven – motivated to establish and implement innovative ways to continue critical operations and justice services, mindful that providing these services is at the very core of why we exist at all,” he said.  

Highlights from the 2021 State of the Judiciary Address:

Office of the Public Guardian: OPG remained a 24/7, full-service operation throughout every stage of this pandemic. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the office.

Virtual Platforms: Judiciary of Guam shifted as many in-person proceedings as possible onto virtual platforms — from virtual proceedings held only before magistrate judges in March of 2020, to conducting over 13,000 virtual hearings to date, before Superior Court Judges, magistrates, and referees.

“As a side note, I am proud to report that in the 13,000 plus hearings held at the Judiciary, we have yet to have an attorney appear as a cat. So, kudos to the attorneys who appear before our courts,” Carbullido said, in reference to a popular meme where a Texas lawyer appeared in a ZOOM hearing as a cat. 

Client Care: The court’s child support referee has reported a significant increase in court appearances by parties since moving to a virtual platform. The court’s Probation Division and Client Services and Family Counseling Division also describe successes with clients who report virtually, including attendance at telehealth sessions. According to the Chief Justice, the Probation Division found more positive responses during the pandemic, with clients fulfilling their check-in obligations using virtual methods.

Electronic Monitoring Program: The electronic monitoring, or EM, program was significantly expanded this past year. To date, over 50 pre-trial detainees were placed on electronic monitoring versus in-house detention at DOC. With the cost of housing a detainee at DOC being an average of $130 per day, according to the Chief Justice, a rough estimate is that the Judiciary’s EM program may be saving DOC approximately $6,500 per day, and rising.

Contact Tracing Team:  Since this team was formed, they have conducted tracing for 135 Judiciary of Guam employees and 9 employees from the Executive Branch, who requested the assistance of the Judiciary’s contact tracers.