Guam’s Governor Presses Forward with Controversial Appeal

[Update: New counsel for Guam has filed a motion for extension of petition deadline with Justice Kagan’s office 10-28-19]

On October 21, the governor of Guam, Lou Leon Guerrero, announced that she intends to appeal the recent Ninth Circuit decision, which declared Guam’s plebiscite law unconstitutional. The law in question would have restricted the right to vote in a plebiscite regarding the future of Guam’s relationship with the United States to “native inhabitants of Guam.” The Ninth Circuit invalidated the law, finding that the term “native inhabitant of Guam” was defined in such a way that restricted the right to vote along racial lines in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment.

The decision to pursue this case has been controversial. Guam’s publicly elected attorney general has voiced his concern with the governor’s decision to proceed with the appeal. Guam’s delegate to the House of Representatives, Michael San Nicolas, has expressed disagreement with the substance of the law, stating that he would prefer to see a vote that “includes everyone.”

Guam will not have much time to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. The deadline to file for an extension has already passed, and Guam’s attorneys have not acted. Unless Guam’s attorneys can demonstrate that “extraordinary circumstances” prevented filing for an extension by the deadline, they will be required to submit their full appeal in a matter of days.