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Separation Of Powers Guam

The People base their argument on the concept of prosecutorial discretion, a well-founded principle in the modern judicial system. The authority to prosecute is vested in a prosecuting attorney pursuant to 8 GCA § 5.60 (1994).

The People argue that reading § 25.30 as creating a de facto SOL for felonies, and even misdemeanors, leads to an unreasonable infringement upon, by being burdensome or interfering with, the Attorney General's ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Therefore, the court's interpretation violates the doctrine of separation of powers by imposing a duty on the People where the Legislature intended none and where the prosecution of crimes is wholly under the province of the Executive Branch.

The People cite the case of Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 105 S. Ct. 1649, 84 L. Ed. 2d 714 (1985) wherein prison inmates, who faced death by lethal injection, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a determination that the use of drugs in that manner constituted a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.

The FDA refused to prosecute and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld such a decision based on the agency's power for absolute discretion in such matters. Id. at 830, 105 S. Ct. at 1655.

The People claim that the case at bar is similar to Heckler in that this court's finding of a de facto SOL interferes with the discretionary authority of the Attorney General's office by creating a coercive effect upon the prosecutors who will otherwise face dismissal of cases.

Although it is true that prosecutorial discretion is far reaching, the circumstances of these cases and those posed under § 25.30 do not affect this concept. True, the decision whether to prosecute a case is a decision left to the prosecuting authority; however, the decision when to prosecute a case is not a decision of which a prosecutor enjoys unlimited discretion in determining.

Clearly, SOLs are present throughout criminal and civil law. Causes of action must be brought within statutory time frames, otherwise prosecution of such claims are barred forever.

In Palomo, the court noted "while it is true that the decision on whether to prosecute a case is within the discretion of the prosecuting attorney, this discretionary authority is not unlimited. Instead, certain limitations are placed upon that discretionary authority as evidenced by both sections 25.30 and 10.30." Palomo, 1998 Guam.

Section 25.30 does not take away the discretionary authority of the prosecuting attorney to decide which cases to prosecute, that determination is still left within the discretion of the Attorney General's Office. Instead, § 25.30 only places additional time limitations when prosecution is undertaken in a certain manner. What the People fail to realize is that time limitations have always been imposed upon them, not only under §§ 10.20 and 10.30, but also under § 25.30, although such had not previously been followed until Palomo was decided.

Here we find there is no violation of the doctrine of separation of powers by the judicial branch. As stated in Palomo, "the problem exists not with the judicial system, but instead with the Legislature." Palomo, 1998 Guam 12 at P17. However, because prosecutorial discretion as to which cases to prosecute is not infringed upon, even the Legislature cannot be blamed for the consequences which can and will occur if the government ignores § 25.30.

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