Appeal Made in Plebiscite Ruling
by John O'Connor
Guam Daily Post
April 8, 2017
"A lot of the Chamorros here and the community feel (the ruling) was an attack on them, calling us racists for not allowing somebody to register to vote in our plebiscite or register land." – Amber Benavente-Sanchez, rally organizerHundreds of people descended on the pristine front lawn of the governor's office at Adelup late yesterday afternoon to join the "Respect the CHamoru People" rally that was being held in response to a March 8 District Court of Guam ruling holding Guam's plebiscite unconstitutional.
The rally began around 4 p.m., just hours after the Office of the Attorney General filed a notice at the District Court stating that it would appeal the earlier decision with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Counsels for the government of Guam in the case include Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Orcutt and Special Assistant Attorney General Julian Aguon.
Aguon had argued Guam's case before Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam in September 2016, and had been researching arguments for a potential appeal in the aftermath of the court ruling.
Barrett-Anderson has told The Guam Daily Post that her office would only pursue an appeal if it believed it had a strong argument.
Guam's political plebiscite had been limited to indigenous residents. Tydignco-Gatewood found that the status vote was race-based and therefore, unconstitutional. Longtime resident and U.S. Air Force Veteran Arnold "Dave" Davis challenged the plebiscite on behalf of himself and others unable to register for the vote. The ruling struck a chord with many activist and citizens, who viewed the decision as an example of the federal government undermining indigenous rights.
A matter of messaging
Yesterday's more than two-hour-long rally included activities, songs and speeches from noted individuals – Chamorros and non-Chamorros – such as Carmen Kasperbauer, a World War II survivor and wife of former Sen. Larry Kasperbauer. Robert Underwood, president of the University of Guam, said he attended the event to show support for those fighting for Chamorro rights – a long-term project that has struggled over decades, he added.
But interspersed within the mass of chanters, educators and activists were individuals much more blunt in expressing their animosity toward the man now at the center of their struggle. They carried signs and wore T-shirts making derogatory statements about Davis – some calling him a racist.
Tano Lizama, wearing a "Deport Dave Davis" T-shirt, said he wanted to show that Davis had "awoken the Chamorro people" with his actions. The shirt and its message, he added, was a symbol of how upset he had become over recent events, for which Davis was the catalyst.
"I don't think it's inflammatory. I don't think it takes away from the message," Lizama said.
"Everyone's got their own opinion ... Dave Davis is just a small piece of this and this shirt is just how I feel."
Amber Benavente-Sanchez, a rally organizer, said she did not want the message of the event to be directed by animosity.
"Here's the thing on the racist issue ... a lot of the Chamorros here and the community feel (the ruling) was an attack on them, calling us racists for not allowing somebody to register to vote in our plebiscite or register land," Benavente-Sanchez said.
"What we want to make clear here is we are the indigenous people of the island – here for 4,000 years and colonized for over 400 years. We want the community of Guahan to recognize that we have rights, too. We are not racists, we have opened up our doors and its our turn now to be recognized," she said.
Benavente-Sanchez said the signs and statements made at the rally were up to the individual but in the weeks planning for the event, she had spoken to people who felt that some of Davis' past public statements were also derogatory or racist in nature – leading them to counter similarly.
She added that she wanted people to walk away from the rally understanding that Chamorros had rights as a people and to walk away a bit more educated on current matters.
"We've invited the (plebiscite) task forces. We've invited Chamorro Land Trust here to set up information booths. We want people to walk away with a sense of pride, to recognize that we have rights and to get a little bit educated with the issues at hand," Benavente-Sanchez said.
Continue moving forward
Gov. Eddie Calvo had made the plebiscite a major initiative for his administration. He told media yesterday that he still hoped to hold a vote at the end of his term in 2018 and would continue with the process while the appeal made its way through court. After the District Court decision ruled the plebiscite unconstitutional, Calvo proposed using a dual-ballot system that would indicate whether a voter was a non-native or indigenous resident but opened the vote to all residents.
The rally was also in response to a Department of Justice notice in January finding the Chamorro Land Trust Act discriminatory in nature. The attorney general has publicly opposed the DOJ on this matter and stated in a March letter that she would not enter into a consent decree, as requested by the federal justice department. She asked that a copy of whatever lawsuit the DOJ files be forwarded to her office instead.
Davis had filed a complaint initially bring the matter to the attention of the DOJ.
Davis Seeks $930K Worth of Fees for Plebiscite Suit
by Mindy Aguon
Guam Daily Post
April 9, 2017
Arnold “Dave” Davis is seeking close to $1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs for a lawsuit he filed against the government of Guam six years ago for preventing him from participating in a plebiscite vote because he was a non-native inhabitant of the island.
In a motion for costs and attorneys’ fees filed in the District Court of Guam on Friday, Davis requested the court award him:
• $869,639.15 in attorneys’ fees;
• $51,063.95 in non-taxable expenses;
• $3,525 in expert fees; and
• $5,104.25 in taxable costs.
District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood entered a judgment on March 9 in favor of Davis, striking down Guam’s plebiscite law allowing only the island’s native inhabitants to vote for Guam’s future political status. The ruling stated that the law is considered race-based discrimination in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments.
In the decision, the judge barred the Guam Election Commission and government of Guam officials from implementing "any laws and regulations designed to enforce the plebiscite law, insofar as such enforcement would prevent or hinder plaintiff and other qualified voters who are not native inhabitants of Guam from registering for, and voting in, the political status plebiscite."
Davis has said he had a difficult time hiring an attorney on Guam to represent him, so he ended up getting primary legal representation from a stateside law firm.
“The political sensitivity of the case made it very difficult to find anyone on Guam willing to work on this case,” court documents state.
Entitled to fees and expenses
Because he prevailed, Davis argues he is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees, a reasonable expert fee, and reasonable non-taxable expenses.
J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center PLLC, Michael Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and Mun Su Park of the Law Offices of Park and Associates represented Davis, while Gibson Dunn represented Davis in the appeal after the initial dismissal of the lawsuit.
Rosman argued that the case required a “substantial” amount of work given the initial dismissal of his suit and the government’s “vigorous opposition.”
He said his client “fully vindicated” not only his own constitutional rights, but obtained an injunction that will aid many others – blacks, whites, Japanese, Filipinos, etc., a memorandum states.
“If the plebiscite moves forward, they will have a voice. If it does not, they will at least no longer be treated as disfavored citizens,” Rosman noted.
Davis’ lawyers said the litigation qualifies as “complex federal litigation” and have asked the court to award all of the attorneys’ fees, expert fees, non-taxable costs as well as Davis’ taxable costs that included fees paid for transcripts, to the court, witnesses, and the appeal.
Hours and feesCourt filings detail the hours each firm has contributed and the fees requested:
Election Law Center PLLC (J. Christian Adams): 719 hours, 34 minutes – $378,577.40
Center for Individual Rights (Michael Rosman): 453.3 hours – $247,322.00
Gibson Dunn: 587.5 hours – $215,489.75
Law Offices of Park and Associates (Mun Su Park): 113 hours – $27,250.00
Davis ruling perpetuates more of the same for colonized CHamorus
by Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo
May 1, 2017
The Guam Daily Post
Since the ruling on the Davis case in early March, I have felt disappointed and disheartened. But most of all, I have felt dissatisfied. Though many of us knew what the likely outcome of the case would be (since we were working within the U.S. federal court system), it was still sad to see CHamorus get the wrong/raw end of things, yet again. Guam is the only place on Earth that CHamorus who come from this particular island can claim indigenous rights and ancestral ties to. It is only here that we are taotao tåno` and taotao tåsi. Only here, where we can practice and perpetuate our culture and values as the people of this land and the people of this ocean. Only here and nowhere else. Though other places may become home, Guam will remain our only ancestral homeland.
Because of our status as a U.S. colony, we CHamorus of Guam thus remain a colonized people of the U.S. and have been since 1898. Many of us know about the injustices imposed on our people since the U.S. naval administration — including illegal land occupation and restrictions, English-only speaking policies, devastating and irreversible health and environmental impacts, and the lack of proper compensation for the use of local resources for military purposes. These injustices persist even until now. Today, what makes the situation worse for CHamorus is that we have not been given the right to choose what kind of political relationship we want with the U.S. And recently, we have been called racist on our own island, simply because many of our people have become vocal about particular rights that should belong solely to us as the indigenous people of this place.
The Davis ruling, though expected, was still disappointing. It’s disappointing because outsiders/settlers/non-CHamorus who come to Guam and make this island their home hold much power over the CHamoru people and have more rights and access to things than we do, despite this being our ancestral homeland. This is the epitome of tai respetu and of tai mamahlao. CHamorus are expected to uphold the “Håfa Adai spirit” and maintain smiling faces toward outsiders (tourists, military, and others). But outsiders/settlers? They can come here, disrespect our culture, ignore our history, and then claim rights to things that clearly should not belong to them.
As a CHamoru woman/mother/educator/activist, it is disheartening to know that my people remain colonized and that the struggles of raising my 3-year-old CHamoru daughter will remain so long as the status quo is maintained.
Finally, I, along with many other CHamorus and non-CHamoru allies, are feeling dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the systems that we constantly have to work with(in) but which continue to fail our people. Dissatisfied with the unjust outcomes of political- and military- related issues. Dissatisfied with our political relationship with the U.S. It is because of this dissatisfaction that many CHamorus are choosing to speak up, choosing to take action, and choosing to address the wrongs of the past and present, so that we can have a more just, decolonized, sustainable, and sovereign future.