District Court Conference Focuses on the Territories

District Conference Summary Story
FOR: Marianas Business Journal
08 Feb 2012
BY: Stephanie Lundberg

The District Court of Guam’s Annual District Conference at the Hilton Guam Resort opened and closed Jan. 26 with its honorary guest, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As was reported in the Journal previously, the conference began with a press conference with local media, and then continued with a ceremony in which Sotomayor swore in new members to the Guam and federal bar associations.

The conference continued in the morning with a review of the draft local rules for the District Court covering civil, criminal, admiralty, bankruptcy, tax, and habeas and general law. Attendees also received status updates from the United States Attorney’s and the Federal Public Defender’s offices. The morning sessions ended with a two-hour conversatorio with Sotomayor; all morning sessions were closed to the media due to Sotomayor’s attendance.

Sotomayor departed the conference after the conversatorio, and Judge Susan P. Graber conducted a lunch session regarding the status of United States Ninth Circuit Court. Following this, the afternoon session began, divided into two parts dealing with territorial status and law: “Part I: Are the Territories Still ‘Foreign’ in a Domestic Sense?” and “Part II: Are the Territories Created Equally? Ten Things You Should Know About the Territories.”

Chief Judge Curtis V. Gomez of the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands moderated a panel for part one comprised of Judge Michael Bordallo of the Superior Court of Guam and attorneys Julian Aguon and William Fitzgerald. The panel discussed territorial history and a group of Supreme Courts rulings from 1901 to 1922, known as the Insular Cases, and their impact on the political and economic status of territories within the U.S. 

Part two of the afternoon session was moderated by attorney Rodney Jacob, and paneled by Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Anthony M. Babauta, University of Guam President Dr. Robert Underwood, and attorneys Leevin Camacho and June Mair. 

This section discussed several points regarding the relationship between the territories and the U.S. government: Congress’s authority of territorial legislatures, the application of fundamental constitutional rights, the function of citizenship in the territories, differential treatment of the territories under U.S. law, the territories’ limited legislative representation to Congress, and the role of U.S. courts in the territories, among other subjects.

The final conference session was chaired by Graber and attorney R. Todd Thompson, and was aimed at helping trial lawyers make more effective summary judgment motions. The conference closed with an evening reception held by the Guam Bar Association in honor of Sotomayor, and was also restricted to registered conference attendees.