Guam governor: US Supreme Court decision a 'disappointment'

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) —  After nine years, Arnold "Dave" Davis has "final victory and justice," as the U.S. Supreme Court denied Guam's appeal of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found Guam's plebiscite law was a race-based voting restriction, according to his attorney.

On May 4, the appellate court denied the government of Guam's writ of certiorari request.

Davis has been challenging Guam's plebiscite on the question of whether Guam should seek independence, statehood or free association with the United States.

Guam law permits only those who meet the definition of "native inhabitants of Guam" to vote in the plebiscite. It was this definition that Davis and the Center for Individual Rights alleged excluded Davis and other individuals who live on Guam and are otherwise registered to vote in Guam elections.

"It is a shame that so much energy was devoted to a divisive, racially discriminatory voting qualification," said Davis' attorney, J. Christian Adams. "The Legislature could have years ago opened

Arnold Davis

up the plebiscite to all citizens living on Guam. Those status questions could have been resolved by now, but instead money and time were wasted."

The 9th Circuit found Guam's plebiscite law was a race-based voting restriction in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment.

The government pursued an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the planned plebiscite should not be considered a "vote" because it will not result in "direct legal or political consequences."

Davis and his lawyers claimed Guam's argument would have significant consequences for voting laws in the states. If advisory votes do not qualify as "votes" under the Fifteenth Amendment, then even some state primaries would not meet the definition of a "vote," as delegates are not necessarily bound by the results of the primaries in their states, plaintiff's attorneys said.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero hired a private law firm "pro bono" or at no cost, but additional attorney's fees will be charged to the government because it lost the case.

As of the 9th Circuit ruling, GovGuam was already on the hook for almost $1 million in the award of legal fees to the plaintiff's attorneys. The governor previously said she was responding to a call for her to continue the legal fight.

She had said she could not deny the people the right of an appeal while others were willing to champion the cause.

With the denial from the U.S. Supreme Court, attorney Adams stated, "Now is the time for everyone to come together and settle these issues in a realistic Constitutional way that respects the dignity of every citizen on Guam."

The governor reacted to the decision on Tuesday calling it a "disappointment."

"It is what it is," said Leon Guerrero. "I am going to be meeting with Melvin Borja, who heads my Commission on Decolonization, and regroup and see whatever options we have to move forward on. We could do legislation. We could amend the legislation. We could do something with the legislation that would address the 9th Circuit's concerns about the legislation, but we are going to move on with the plebiscite."


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