Guam Bar Association ordered to redo election

RUDOLPH: Attorney Gloria Rudolph enters the courtroom of Judge Arthur Barcinas at the Judiciary of Guam on Feb. 2. Post file photo

Guam's Supreme Court now has until July 24 to issue a decision on whether the Guam Bar Association will have to redo an election for the president of Guam's association of attorneys.

Chief Justice Katherine Maraman, Justice Robert Torres and Justice Philip Carbullido heard oral arguments Friday afternoon by both the petitioner, attorney Gloria Rudolph, and GBA's counsel, attorney Mitchell Thompson.

According to Post files, Rudolph ran for GBA president and is challenging the outcome of the election. She said in court documents that errors were made during the election process, which she said the association has previously acknowledged.

She asked the court for an order stopping the bar association from engaging in further action toward certifying the election results. Additionally, she told justices Friday she wanted GBA to redo the election from the point immediately following the nomination process since the alleged violations began there. However, Post files quote former GBA President Jehan'ad Martinez as saying the association's bylaws do not allow for redos – only recounts.

GBA asserted to the panel the true party in interest in Rudolph's case is attorney Jacqueline Terlaje, Rudolph's opponent in the GBA election and the candidate who received the most votes. Members of the panel responded that Terlaje had ample time to file a claim of interest in the case, which was filed four months ago, and added that since Rudolph's petition concerned allegations of election process violations, Rudolph was validated in bringing the petition against GBA.

Post files state that before she sought the court's intervention, Rudolph directly requested that the association's board of governors and election committee redo the Jan. 3 election.

'Excessive irregularities'

In a letter to the board and committee, Rudolph submitted a long list of what she described as excessive irregularities.

The bar members who oversaw the election credited Rudolph with 56 votes, while 64 votes counted toward attorney Jacqueline Terlaje's candidacy.

However, Rudolph wrote to the board and committee, 71 ballots were not counted, as there was no way of determining if the ballots were submitted by members of the Guam Bar Association in good standing.

The bar association had considered the 71 ballots "spoiled," a bar association letter states.

Some of the ballots cast could not be verified based on the procedure established by the board, and none of the envelopes containing ballots bore a number that would verify the identity of the member, according to court documents.

Unidentifiable ballots

"Numerous ballots were counted based upon the subjective approval of members of the election committee and an outside observer, all or some of whom vouched without further corroboration, for the validity or identity of illegible signatures where no printed name accompanied the illegible signatures," Rudolph wrote in her request for the election's "redo."

And prior to counting the ballots, no effort was made to determine whether the ballots had been submitted on or before the date specified by the board of governors and the ballots were not reviewed or counted until Jan. 18, 15 days after the deadline communicated in a letter, according to Rudolph.

In a Feb. 11 response to Rudolph, Martinez wrote that the 71 ballots were determined to be unidentifiable, and therefore could not be compared against the Supreme Court's list of active bar association members in good standing.

"This is due to the GBA members' failure to follow the written instructions provided with the ballots," Martinez wrote. "There was no distinguishing number provided in the first round of ballots dispatched to the GBA membership. For those GBA members who returned ballots that were not easily identifiable by name and signature, a second round of ballots with an identifying number was dispatched."

It is the board of governors' position that to the extent the numbers were important to the process that was cured with the second round of ballots, Martinez said.

"In any event, numbering on the envelope is not sufficient for purposes of determining whether the member completed the ballot," Martinez wrote. "It is one of several elements that render the 71 ballots 'spoiled.'"

Following Friday's oral arguments, Maraman said the panel would take the matter under advisement and return a decision in no more than 10 days.

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