By Gina T. Reilly
A U.S.-based legal group slammed Guam’s attorney general, Douglas Moylan, for arguing against proposed legislation that would establish pay parity for public defenders, saying such an objection “undermines public and political trust in our justice system.”
“The attorney general’s disrespect for the critical role defense attorneys play in our adversarial system shows a fundamental misunderstanding of these bedrock principles at best, and a complete disregard at worst,” the National Association of Criminal Lawyers said in a statement posted on the group’s website.
The organization issued the statement in response to Moylan’s Feb. 9 letter to Speaker Therese Terlaje, opposing Bill 33-37, which would provide “special pay” to public defenders, saying the proposal “poses a clear & present danger to the protection and safety of this community.”
“This bill is targeted to undermine the pay you at the legislature gave to provide an incentive for attorneys to become prosecutors to protect us,” Moylan wrote.
“In addition, weakening the AG’s Office will weaken government corruption prosecutions, and weaken the rest of the office to have enough attorneys to collect child support, protect consumers in our Consumer Protection Division, and provide overall civil legal work to the entire government of Guam," he added.
The NADL expressed “outrage that a fellow member of the bar would resort to fear-mongering and hyperbole.”
“While pay parity was the topic of debate, the AG’s remarks demonstrate deep-seated misconceptions about our role as defenders,” the group said.
In response, Moylan dismissed the group’s sentiments as “misplaced and over-dramatized.”
“This national organization is made up of criminal defense attorneys who promote their self-interested agendas, and is out of touch with what our Guam legislature considered and passed for all government attorneys and the former AG,” Moylan said.
He noted that Guam has been experiencing a lack of private and government attorneys to provide for all the legal needs of the community.
“Attorneys have retired, left the island and simply shifted to different jobs while the legal needs of this community have grown. This is basic economics, supply-and-demand problem,” he said.
“At taxpayer expense, Guam attorneys already received a 6 percent pay increase to their salaries that benefited all of these people in 2022,” Moylan said.
He noted that while his office does both civil and criminal practice, only the criminal prosecutors received a 15 percent pay incentive.
“This issue has nothing to do with pay equity. The legislature determined that criminal prosecutors are more important toward protecting crime victims and protecting us and our loved ones,” Moylan said.
He argued that the 15 percent pay incentive for criminal prosecutors was intended to attract lawyers to work at the Office of the Attorney General.
“That is a valid public purpose that has nothing to do with a criminal defendant's rights,” he said. “In fact, it sounds like the greed of a few non-prosecutor government attorneys trying to manipulate certain senators to deceive the taxpayers to foot another pay increase for them.”
The NADL letter was issued by Lisa Wayne, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; April Frazier Camara, president and CEO of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; Scott Hechinger, executive director of Zealous; Lori James-Townes, executive director of the National Association for Public Defense; and Pam Metzger, director of Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center.