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Guam judge orders immediate release of mother, sons, another traveler from quarantine

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) —  Superior Court of Guam Judge Elyze Iriarte late Friday granted Dededo resident Janella Cruz and her two sons request to be released from the government quarantine facility. The judge also granted the request of another traveler, Sean Convento, to be released from the hotel quarantine site. 

Cruz’s attorney Rachel Taimanao-Ayuyu had asked the judge for a directed verdict, arguing in court that her client is being held illegally by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

“The larger picture is Cruz has a fundamental right to her liberty,” said Judge Iriarte, adding that Cruz was not told she had the right to legal counsel until several days into her quarantine. “There is absolutely no justification for her civil commitment,” the judge added.

She ruled that Cruz is not in voluntary quarantine and was confined against her will without an opportunity to be heard or hire an attorney.

“The court is ordering that public health release Ms. Cruz and her children immediately,” the judge said during a hearing on Friday afternoon.

Cruz said she was told by Public Health officials three times through the 311 hotline that she would be able to pick up her children arriving from Saipan on a Sept. 7 fight and take them to quarantine at home.

It was said in court that the children both had negative test results for Covid-19. However, she was directed at the airport that she would need to join her boys at the government quarantine facility or they would be placed with strangers. Cruz was not a passenger on the flight and contends she was rushed to sign the voluntary quarantine forms.

DPHSS Director Art San Agustin testified that parents who do not quarantine with their unaccompanied minors would be placed in custody of Child Protective Services.

Cruz is among a handful of other Guam residents being held in quarantine who have filed a petition in the local court. In a separate case, the court ruled that DPHSS failed to notify arriving passengers of their due process rights.

Taimanao-Ayuyu reacted to the judge's ruling and told the Post, "This is another huge win for civil rights! For parents! For children!"

Janella Cruz said she held the hands of her two boys, Joseph, 16, and Jerome, 14, tight as they listened to the judge announce her decision that they were free to go home.

“I broke down and felt relieved,” the mother said. “It’s a really good feeling and I am very grateful for my attorney for that.”

“I don’t have a bitter heart. That’s not me. This was one big misunderstanding, one big mess. It’s chaotic and it’s all because of the virus. If they had taken some time to listen and hear out the situation. We were rushed because of other passengers were waiting, but how about they put us in an area to go through the papers and read it ... if given the opportunity and option then I think that would not have happened,” Janella Cruz said.

“We came home and I explained to my two sons that this is not a big battle. There’s a bigger fight we have to fight and that’s the virus. Coming home and feeling freedom is one thing, but we are not free from the virus yet.”

She said she and her sons will complete their 14-day quarantine at home. They've spent 11 days at the government quarantine facility.

Another case

Shortly after the judge ruled in favor of the Cruz family, the judge granted the request of another traveler, Sean Convento, to be released from the hotel quarantine site.

“Without any basis to find that Public Health has complied with Guam law and due process rights, the only conclusion I have is Public Health has not complied with Guam law,” Judge Iriarte said.

Convento flew into Guam from Seattle, Washington, about 11 days ago and has been held in the government quarantine facility at the Dusit Beach Resort in Tumon.

He was represented by attorney Tom Fisher, who made an offer during Friday’s hearing to withdraw the petition before the court if Public Health would release his client.

DPHSS didn’t immediately respond to Fisher’s request, but opposed the petition in court.

“We’re happy with the ruling,” Fisher said. “The government of Guam may not run roughshod over the people’s fundamental constitutional rights.”

Judge Iriarte will continue hearings on Saturday morning for more passengers who have taken the local health department to court.

A handful of passengers have since filed petitions in the local court after the judge's ruling about a week ago that DPHSS had failed to inform arriving passengers being taken to government quarantine of their due process rights.

 

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