Guam – An attorney has filed a lawsuit in New York that would remove all of Guam’s elected leaders this includes the Legislature and even the Governor.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Guam’s ability to elect it’s own leaders. However, the attorney who filed the suit Dustin O’brien says his real goal is to bring awareness to Guam’s political status.
“Having the people in Guam elect the person who sort of acts like a mini-president in the territory constitutionally is problematic,” said O’Brien. O’brien has filed a lawsuit in the state of New York challenging the constitutionality of Guam’s elections. He argues that the constitution only gives the president the power to appoint the leaders of a territory like Guam. So why is he interested in Guam? Well it turns out that O’brien used to work on Guam for the alternate public defenders office.
“Is it true that you were fired from the alternate public defenders office?” asked PNC. “That’s right that’s right I was discharged,” replied O’brien. However, the attorney says this has nothing to do with his lawsuit. “What I’m doing has nothing to do with that,” said O’Brien. “Your not a disgruntled employee of the government?” asked PNC. “No, no, no I really, it was a great experience I really, perhaps I would’ve changed things a little bit I’d still love to be on island working for the government I really had hoped to become an attorney on Guam and work there and work for the people of Guam but it just didn’t turn out that way sometimes things don’t work out but that’s okay this really doesn’t have to do anything with my time as a GovGuam employee you know it really has to do more with meeting people on Guam people were so nice and gracious to me while I lived on Guam,” said O’Brien.
Instead O’Brien says this was all sparked by the fact that he still had to file taxes on Guam when he first moved back to the states. “After I left I would tell you that the Guam territorial income tax followed me into New York and if I have certain constitutional rights that people on Guam don’t yet I was still obligated by federal law to file my income tax with the governor in Guam well that’s constitutionally that’s very problematic to deprive a state citizen that he should enjoy or she so that’s kind of the incarnation of the lawsuit,” said O’Brien.
So what is O’Brien’s real objective? “The real goal is I want attention to be drawn to the issue of Guam’s political status,” said O’Brien. The attorney says that if a judge were to find Guam’s ability to elect it’s own leaders as unconstitutional then it would force the U.S. congress into lending Guam some form of real self-government. O’brien says the easiest way to do this is to make Guam a state. “I think back in 1966 when congress first sort of started taking votes on the elected governorship of Guam it was very clear if you look at what congress said back then they had every intention and thought that their predecessors would admit Guam as a state maybe even before the end of the 20th century,” said O’Brien.
The government of Guam has responded to O’brien’s lawsuit. The Attorney General’s office has filed a motion to dismiss the case. The motion states that O’brien is mistaken because the territories clause of the constitution grants congress plenary power to establish the sort of government it finds best for Guam.