HIRING OF SPECIAL PROSECUTOR URGED!!


Island Times, Feb, 28, 2012 edition
Senate Joint Resolution was introduced Friday urging President Toribiong anew to immediately appoint or expedite the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The Senate minority, which introduced the resolution on this matter, explained that the SP Office plays an important role in the government as it helps ensure that high government officials perform their duties and responsibilities in full compliance with the law of the land.

The SP position has been left vacant since the resignation of Michael Copeland in 2009.

Following Copeland’s resignation, the president issued directive transferring all staff of the SP Office to the Attorney General’s Office until such time that a new SP is appointed.

In January last year, after nine months since Copeland’s resignation, Toribiong nominated David Hutton as SP.

The minority said that the committee report from the Judiciary and Government Affairs committee that was released in April contained several impressive letters of recommendation from esteemed judges and colleagues from the United States and its territories and recommended the appointment of Hutton.

However, despite the fact that seven members of the JGA committee signed the report recommending the appointment of Hutton, the appointment was still rejected by a vote of eight against the appointment and four in favor of the appointment.

The minority expressed concern of the fact that the president recently issued an executive order (EO 306) clarifying who may request legal opinion from the AG.

The minority said that EO 306 has effectively eliminated any pretense that the AG’s Office acted independently of the Office of the President.

The resolution states that in light of the fact that the AG’s Office is clearly no longer independent from the Office of the President, it is essential that the SP Office be maintained and that a new SP be appointment and confirmed as soon as possible so that the SP Office can resume its functions and responsibilities under the law and provide a measure of objectivity in the enforcement of the laws of the land.

The minority said that with the enactment of EO 306, it is more imperative than ever to appoint SP and keep the SP Office distinct and separate from the Office of the President to maintain its independence and integrity in the performance of its duties and responsibilities, including the prosecution of public officials for abusing their position.

The resolution, proposed as SJR No. 8-96, has been referred to the JGA committee for review.

Toribiong, for his part, said he will wait for the advice of the Senate before nominating another individual as he does not want to embarrass himself again.

Toribiong said Hutton has outstanding background and even the JGA committee found him to be highly qualified yet his nomination failed to get approval of the majority in the Senate because some senators want to just hire SP on case-by-case basis.

Pending appointment of a special prosecutor, Toribiong said that the Office of the Attorney General hired another assistant attorney general, who will also review pending cases from the SP Office.

AAG Brentley Foster arrived on island Monday last week. She has been assigned to handle criminal matters but will also be reviewing pending case files of the OSP. The president said the AG informed him that after AAG Foster’s review of the pending case files in the SP Office, she will issue a report and recommendation on what she intends to do with these cases.

“I don’t want to embarrass another appointee. I have explained my position to the Senate on this issue and it is up to them to act,” Toribiong said.

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