Suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron's attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje stated her objection to the court's decision to allow prosecutor David Lujan to attempt to fix the jurisdictional problems of his cases by a single filing, rather than amend each and every one of his 45 cases filed in Guam's federal court.
Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan began yesterday's scheduling conference by discussing the issues shared in all the child sexual abuse cases pending before the court.
According to Manibusan, the problem lies in language in the complaints, which allege that plaintiffs and defendants are "residents" of different places. The residency of the parties is not enough to establish what he termed "diversity jurisdiction" – the jurisdiction of Guam's federal court to hear the cases on the grounds that the parties are citizens of different locations.
According to Post files, Manibusan brought up this same issue during a previous hearing held last week on the first six cases to come before him for a scheduling conference. During that hearing, Manibusan ordered a pause on all motions and further proceedings in all the other cases until the issue of jurisdiction can be resolved.
After Manibusan further explained the issue with the cases' diversity jurisdiction, Lujan asked if it would be possible to submit a more general position paper for all of the applicable cases rather than go through the arduous process of amending each case individually. He also requested additional time to prepare that paper and asked if the court would set a deadline for June 2.
Although Terlaje did not object to the extension granted to Lujan, she did say she objected to the court's position that a single general filing would fix the cases' jurisdictional problems.
"The onus is upon Mr. Lujan and plaintiffs to ensure sufficient information is presented to the court to enable the court to determine diversity jurisdiction," Terlaje objected. She added if the court finds Lujan has not done just that, they should consider dismissing the cases and have Lujan start over from scratch. Manibusan replied it would be premature to entertain any motions for dismissal and stated again that all motions on the cases, including those for dismissal, were on hold.
Following the hearing, Lujan told media he was not overly concerned with the issue of jurisdiction because he would simply re-file those cases where he is not able to establish diversity jurisdiction with the Superior Court of Guam.
When asked about Apuron's current whereabouts, Terlaje said she would withhold comment, but said her client still maintained his innocence. As to the issue of her objection, Terlaje said in civil case proceedings, the burden of proof falls that much more heavily on the plaintiff.