Guam – “Our View” is a periodic feature representing the editorial opinion of the Pacific News Center written by Jon Anderson.
OUR VIEW – “Some Not So Good Lawyers”
Guam has lots of lawyers, some of them good…..some of them , well….. Let’s just say not so good.
Getting a law degree doesn’t mean you’re any good. Passing the Guam bar doesn’t make you a good lawyer either.
Experience is what counts….that, and wisdom, especially when it comes to making new law and public policy.
A couple of recent examples:
In an effort to test the marijuana waters, the legislature sent a bill to the election commission asking it to place an attachement to the bill on the ballot, to let the public decide on medicinal use of cannnibus.
The most experienced Organic Act attorney on guam, Howard Trapp, attended two meetings of the election commission when this came up, representing nobody but himself, He even testified on the issue during public comment time. telling the commissioners they could not do what the lawmakers wanted them to do….because it was inconsistent with the Organic Act .
The election commission and their lawyer, Jeff Cook, agreed, more recently a Senator was forced to withdraw a bill because it would violate bond covenants. This was just a couple of days after that senator and some of his colleagues appeared publicly with the governor, who said if their GRT reduction bill arrived on his desk along a with the bill increasing the minimum wage, he would sign both of them.
We do not expect every elected official to understand the law…but we sure do expect the lawyers employed by the legislature or GovGuam to know and understand it.
The Organic Act is our constitution. Lawyers working for the government should be able to read and understand it. The same is true of the bond covenants, which are not that hard to understand either.
Writing new laws under the advice and guidance of lawyers who have neither the experience nor the wisdom to properly advise our politicians makes for bad public policy, and sometimes , bad law.