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Guam autonomous agencies' lawyers say they can assume attorney general's abandoned duties

Updated: May 15



By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


In the wake of Guam Attorney General Douglas Moylan’s pullout from dozens of agencies being investigated by his office, the legal counsel for legally orphaned offices may take charge of the ditched tasks, according to an amicus brief filed by four autonomous agencies.

 

“These legal services would be required to fill the gap left by Moylan’s abandonment of his Organic Act duties,” states the brief filed last week by the legal counsel for Guam Memorial Hospital, Port Authority of Guam, Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority. 


Douglas Moylan

The amicus brief was filed with the Superior Court of Guam on May 6 in support of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s request for a declaratory judgment to clarify the attorney general’s duties under the Organic Act.

 

“This court should enter a declaratory judgment requiring him to fulfill his Organic Act obligation to provide legal services to the government,” states the brief, which argues that the government, not “public interest,” is the attorney general’s client.

 

The brief was filed by Jordan Lawrence Pauluhn, Jessica Toft, Marianne Woloschuck and Theresa Rojas on behalf of GMH, PAG, GPA and GWA, respectively.

 

In her court plea, the governor said Moylan’s withdrawal from 22 agencies has stalled the procurement process for several government projects and services.

 

“Because the autonomous agencies may already hire their own attorneys, the AG’s duties may be exercised by them even if through a de facto delegation,” the legal counsel argued.

 

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They pointed out that the attorneys hired by agencies “are permitted to perform all legal services for the agency, upon request of the appointing authority or the governor.”

 

In response, Moylan opposed the four attorneys’ involvement in the pending litigation, dismissing it as “a rogue operation.”

 

Certain agencies are authorized to hire their own legal counsel to whom  the Office of the Attorney General previously delegated its functions with the status of “special assistant attorneys general,” authorizing them to “exercise the powers of that office subject to oversight by the AG.”

 

However, Moylan last year rescinded the “special assistant attorneys general” designations.

 

Noting the revocation of delegated tasks, Moylan said the four agencies’ attorneys “are explicitly prohibited from appearing before the judiciary  on behalf  of their authority unless such duty has been  delegated to them  by the attorney general.”

 

“No authority was sought from nor granted by the AG, who herein objects. The Guam legislature intended that uniform legal policy be set by the democratically elected attorney general,” Moylan said.

 

“Each must comply with Guam’s administrative laws, but none of their governing bodies appear to have passed on the content of their counsel’s brief, nor directed its filing, as required by their enabling laws,” Guam’s attorney general said.

 

“Without lawful authorization to represent their agencies,” Moylan said, the legal counsel for the four agencies violated Guam laws “and falsely represent to the court that their conduct is lawful when it expressly is not.” 

 

However, the lawyers who filed the brief said Moylan “is apparently unwilling to perform his governing duties as chief legal officer of the government of Guam.”


“This case involves an attorney general who sensationalized his office 

and abandoned the hard work of governing to the detriment of his clients—the government of Guam and its agencies,” they said, noting that Moylan violated ethical rules.

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“This court has been forced—repeatedly—to examine Moylan’s  conduct, in his

 official capacity as AG, including forcing him to perform his official duties to autonomous agencies,” they said.


They cited a 2004 Supreme Court decision in which Moylan was ordered to act on the Guam International Airport Authority’s legal service contract with a private law firm.


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Moylan returned to his seat after 20 years since he became the first elected attorney general following the conversion of the office from an appointive to an elective office.

 

The governor’s request for a declaratory judgment will impel the Supreme Court to revisit previous rulings that sorted out the apparently conflicting roles of the attorney general as the chief legal officer of the government of Guam and as the representative of people who voted for the attorney general.

 

In the presence of any potential conflict, the amicus brief filers argued that the attorney general “may appoint a chief deputy attorney general or second-in-command” to handle any conflicting situation.


“The questions here were raised and 20 years ago,” the brief states. “The

 attorney general is an attorney for the autonomous agencies, but is not required to personally handle every matter.”




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