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Edit Delete 11th Circuit

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE, PREEMPTION

Murphy v. Dulay, Oct-10-2014

J. Hull finds that the lower court improperly allowed plaintiff to bring a medical negligence claim in Florida state court. Florida law requires such plaintiffs to execute a written authorization form to allow the release of protected health information. This is an enforceable rule that is not preempted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The rule ensures that the prospective defendant will obtain documents and be allowed to interview prospective medical providers. This complies with the Act's effort to reduce administrative costs of healthcare and to allow providers to settle claims before litigation begins. Reversed.

Edit Delete 11th Circuit

ELECTIONS, CONSTITUTION, CIVIL PROCEDURE

Frank v. Walker, Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the circuit declines to reconsider the matter en banc. The judges were equally divided.

Edit Delete 1st Circuit

PUBLIC RECORD, TRANSPORTATION

Stalcup v. Central Intelligence Agency, Oct-10-2014

[Corrected.] J. Howard finds that the lower court properly denied plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act request for documents from an investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800, which exploded in mid-air and crashed in 1996. The investigation was the most expensive in the National Transportation Safety Board's history and ended in 2000 with a public report. Plaintiff believes that defendant has covered up the true cause of the crash, a missile strike, and sought copies of all data related to the investigation. Defendant has already provided the required factual information and cannot be forced to give up its drafts and analytical opinions. Nothing shows that defendant did not respond in good faith. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 1st Circuit

DRUG OFFENDER, SENTENCING, PLEA

U.S. v. Barnes, Oct-10-2014

J. Thompson finds that defendant was improperly sentenced upon his guilty plea to conspiring to distribute at least 50 kilograms of marijuana. The sentencing judge found defendant responsible for over 3,000 kilograms using a preponderance of the evidence standard, even though defendant only admitted to at least 50 kilograms. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that most facts that increase a mandatory minimum penalty must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and the term imposed here was 90 months over the mandatory minimum. Nothing shows that the mandatory minimum did not affect the overall sentence even though the judge mentioned other aggravating factors. Reversed.

Edit Delete 1st Circuit

FIREARMS, SEARCH, INTENT

U.S. v. Ridolfi, Oct-10-2014

[Corrected.] J. Howard finds that the lower court properly convicted defendant of being a felon in possession of firearms after he was found in a car full of stolen property, including two shotguns. Any reasonable juror would assume that defendant knew about the firearms and was in possession of them since he had recently been involved in a burglary spree, with some of his takings ending up in the same trunk. He also lied to police about his accomplice's whereabouts. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 1st Circuit

CONSTITUTION, ZONING, BUSINESS PRACTICES

Showtime Entertainment v. Mendon, Oct-10-2014

[Corrected.] J. Torruela finds that the lower court improperly upheld defendant's refusal to grant plaintiff a license to operate an adult entertainment business. Defendant has created a maze of restrictions that only apply to such businesses, such as building size regulations, that have nothing to do with them in particular. Defendant cannot plausibly claim that these secondary effects are uniquely related to the regulated activity, and presenting live nude dancing is considered a protected expressive activity. However, the following questions must be certified to the Supreme Judicial Circuit of Massachusetts: Do the pre-enactment studies justify defendant's ban on selling alcohol at such businesses? If so, is the ban adequately tailored? Reversed in part.

Edit Delete 3rd Circuit

DEBT COLLECTION

Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, Oct-10-2014

J. Scirica finds that the lower court improperly found for the debt collector in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act suit. The debt collector mailed plaintiff a collection notice which displayed her account number in the letter's glassine window, a number referencing her account at the collection agency, not her delinquent account. The disclosure of plaintiff's account number on the face of a collection envelope does not qualify as "benign language." Rather, plaintiff's account number is a core piece of information related to her status as a debtor, and could be used by anyone handling the letter to discover her financial predicament, an invasion of privacy the Act was designed to guard against. Reversed.

Edit Delete 4th Circuit

SEARCH, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

U.S. v. Moore, Oct-10-2014

J. Wilkinson finds that the district court properly held that defendant had waived his challenge to the refusal to suppress evidence in his trial for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. Defendant contends that the court made comments on the merits after ruling on the suppression motion. But the court "stated that the issue was waived, then made some cursory comments on the merits, after which it stated again that it found the issue waived," without indicating that "there might be good cause to excuse the waiver." That defendant may have learned new information by the end of the trial did not show good cause for the delay, as "the whole point of a suppression hearing is to develop the evidence surrounding the challenged action, rather than await its possible emergence at trial." Affirmed.

Edit Delete 6th Circuit

SECURITIES

Ansfield v. Omnicare, Oct-10-2014

J. Moore finds that the district court properly found for appellee. Appellant and other similarly situated shareholders filed a class action alleging that the appellee had committed securities fraud by making various material misrepresentations and omissions in public and in SEC filings regarding its compliance with Medicare and Medicaid regulations. However, appellant fails to meet the standards under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Appellant fails to identify each misleading or false statement and explain how it is misleading or false. Further, appellant has failed to show appellee acted with the required collective state of mind. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

SENTENCING, EVIDENCE, DRUG OFFENDER

U.S. v. Marks, Oct-10-2014

J. Kelly finds that the lower court properly declined to hold an evidentiary hearing on defendant's claim that the government improperly failed to ask the court to reduce his sentence. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and launder money in 1992 and was sentenced to life in prison. In 1999, he informed the U.S. Attorney that two prisoners in his facility were planning to escape. This led to their transfer to a maximum security prison, but no criminal convictions, so the government was not required to move to reduce his sentence for helping prevent a crime. Nothing shows that the government declined to help defendant for improper reasons. Affirmed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

AGRICULTURE, TAX, PROPERTY

Morehouse v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Oct-10-2014

J. Beam finds that the tax court improperly found that payments petitioner received under the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program qualified as self-employment income. A taxpayer's maintenance obligation under this program is basically equivalent to activities performed in an active farming operation. Thus, they do not amount to occupancy by the government, but soil bank payments. There is no need to extend this principle's reach to cover land conservation payments in general. Reversed.

Edit Delete 8th Circuit

PRISONERS RIGHTS, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Castillo-Alvarez v. Krukow, Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the circuit finds that the lower court improperly prohibited plaintiff, a Minnesota inmate, from bringing a civil rights claim. Inmates are limited as to the number of frivolous actions they can bring before losing litigation privileges. Two of his past suits were frivolous, but the third was dismissed due to prosecutorial immunity. Thus, it should not count as a strike. Reversed.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

AGENCY, CIVIL PROCEDURE

Medina-Lara v. Holder, Oct-10-2014

J. Hawkins finds that a September 19, 2014, ruling in the case must be withdrawn. It may no longer be cited as precedent.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

FRAUD, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE

U.S. v. Renzi, Oct-10-2014

J. Tallman finds that the district court properly convicted defendant on various corruption charges and sentenced him to three years behind bars. Among several issues on appeal, defendant, a former congressman from Arizona, claimed that he had received nothing of value in exchange for his alleged promise to influence legislation. However, money clearly "clouded his judgment in performing his official duties and deprived his constituents of the honest services of their elected representative." Affirmed.

Edit Delete 9th Circuit

CIVIL PROCEDURE

Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness v. Cable News Network Inc., Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the circuit withdraws its February, 5, 2014, request to certify a question to the California Supreme Court. Defendant voluntarily dismissed its appeal in the case.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

JURISDICTION, FAMILY LAW

H.T. v. Cleburne County Department of Human Resources, Oct-10-2014

J. Donaldson finds that the lower court properly terminated a mother's parental rights. On appeal, the mother argued the lower court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because her baby was born in Georgia. However, the court did have jurisdiction since it had jurisdiction in the child's original dependency case. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

ATTORNEY FEES

Barney v. Bell, Oct-10-2014

J. Moore finds that the lower court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim for legal malpractice on the issue of excessive fees. Plaintiff argued that a third party had agreed to accept a smaller recovery amount, thus limiting the amount the attorneys were entitled to, but the evidence did not support that argument. Affirmed in part.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

WRONGFUL DEATH, JURISDICTION

Ex parte Texas Loss Control Systems v. , Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the court of civil appeals finds that it lacks jurisdiction to rule on defendant's petition for writ of mandamus. Defendant filed the petition with the Alabama Supreme Court, which transferred it to the court of civil appeals. Because it involves a wrongful death action, however, and not workers' compensation, it must be transferred back to the Supreme Court.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

CONTRACT, EMPLOYMENT

Yance v. Dothan City Board of Education, Oct-10-2014

J. Moore finds that the lower court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint for breach of an employment contract. The lower court improperly used the legal doctrine res judicata, but plaintiff failed to develop a proper legal argument in his appeal. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

REAL ESTATE, DAMAGES

Webb v. Knology, Oct-10-2014

J. Pittman finds that the lower court improperly dismissed plaintiffs' complaint for trespass. Plaintiffs claimed defendant replaced underground cables on their property outside a utility easement. Issues of fact exist regarding whether those actions constitute trespass. Reversed in part.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

DUE PROCESS, FAMILY LAW

M.G.D. v. L.B., Oct-10-2014

J. Pittman finds that the lower court improperly issued an order preventing a mother from taking her minor children out of the court's jurisdiction without its permission. The mother wasn't given notice of a motion for immediate custody filed by the children's paternal grandparents, however, so the order is void.

Edit Delete Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

FAMILY LAW, CONTEMPT

O'Barr v. O'Barr, Oct-10-2014

J. Pittman finds that the lower court properly found a father in criminal contempt for not informing the mother of their children about his new residence. The father argued that his failure didn't rise to the level of criminal contempt, but he failed to provide any legal basis for the argument. Affirmed in part.

Edit Delete Alaska Supreme Court

FAMILY LAW

Dodge v. Sturdevant, Oct-10-2014

J. Winfree finds that the lower court properly ordered a mother, as custodial parent, to sign a federal form waiving her exemption for one of her children. The court had the authority to do so. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Alaska Supreme Court

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Christensen v. Alaska Sales & Service, Oct-10-2014

J. Winfree finds that the lower court improperly dismissed a product liability action that was brought against a car dealership, as plaintiffs raised material fact issues regarding an alleged seat belt defect and causation. Plaintiffs' evidence "is not too incredible to be believed" and "raises a discernible dispute whether the driver's seat belt was defective at the time of the accident." Reversed.

Edit Delete Alaska Supreme Court

FAMILY LAW

Jamie H. v. Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Oct-10-2014

J. Bolger finds that the superior court properly concluded that termination of a father's parental rights was in the best interests of the child based on substantial evidence from the Office of Children's Services. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Arizona Court Of Appeals, Division Two

THEFT, SEX OFFENDER

State v. Flores, Oct-10-2014

J. Howard finds that the trial court properly sentenced defendant as a habitual offender for eight counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and one count of theft. The fact that the offenses were committed days apart mandates they were not continuous and uninterrupted. Affirmed.

Edit Delete California Courts Of Appeal

SENTENCING

People v. Tubbs, Oct-10-2014

J. Cornell finds that a trial court incorrectly reversed itself and decided it did not have the authority to order supervised parole when it resentenced defendant under the Three Strikes Reform Act. While the trial court believed the Dept. of Corrections had to decide the supervised parole issue in light of defendant's good behavior credits, no amount of credits can reduce or eliminate the requirement of probation in defendant's case. Also, the trial court should have held a resentencing hearing and provided notice to all parties involved. Reversed.

Edit Delete California Courts Of Appeal

ENERGY, JURISDICTION

Guerrero v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Oct-10-2014

J. Siggins finds that a trial court correctly dismissed plaintiffs' class action for allegedly deceiving the California Public Utilities Commission and the public by diverting $100 million in rates that should have been spent on pipeline safety. Because the PUC has jurisdiction over defendant's rates and also regulates defendant, allowing plaintiffs to pursue a civil action would interfere with the PUC's authority and its duties. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Court Of Federal Claims

JURISDICTION

Austin v. U.S., Oct-10-2014

J. Horn finds that plaintiff cannot sue the government for $25,000 over a variety of housing contract claims because plaintiff has not yet exhausted its administrative remedies. The record shows plaintiff sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over a rural housing loan, which had led to a dispute between plaintiff and contractor and resulted in a separate suit. However, plaintiff's suit must be dismissed under the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act, which requires administrative remedies within the USDA be exhausted first before filing suit in this court.

Edit Delete Delaware Court of Chancery

FIDUCIARY DUTY

In re Rural/Metro Corporation Stockholders Litigation v. , Oct-10-2014

Vice Chancellor Laster awards the class of Rural/Metro Corporation stockholders $75,798,550.33 in damages against RBC Capital Markets LLC related to its role as lead financial advisor in the 2011 merger of Rural with Warburg Pincus LLC. That amount represents eighty-three percent of the total damages suffered by the Class. The Court only entitled RBC to a settlement credit of seventeen percent of the total damages suffered by the class, while RBC sought an eighty-seven and a half percent settlement credit. RBC fails to prove that secondary financial advisor, Moelis & Company LLC, was a joint tortfeasor and so does not gain that part of the settlement credit under the Delaware Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act. In a previous opinion, the Court found RBC aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duties by the board of directors of Rural.

Edit Delete Delaware Court of Chancery

FRAUD

Lake Treasure Holdings Ltd. v. Foundry Hill GP LLC, Oct-10-2014

Vice Chancellor Laster grants plaintiffs nominal damages of $1.00 on their breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting claims. Defendants Ulric Taylor and Christopher Klee took software from a startup that plaintiffs thought was valuable, but under the scrutiny of trial proved not to have any value as intellectual property. So even though it was proved that Klee did aid and abet Taylor's breach of fiduciary duty by transferring the software to an entity controlled by Klee, and that their conduct constituted a fraudulent transfer, plaintiffs cannot obtain relief under the Delaware Uniform Trade Secrets Act because the software was not a trade secret. Taylor and Klee still must return the software.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

SEX OFFENDER, DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Exantus v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Sleet finds that appellant's convictions for receiving information about a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device were part of a single episode that led to a third charge on which he was also convicted, for traveling to meet a minor. Thus, the first two crimes were subsumed under the third offense, and his conviction on all three counts violated double jeopardy. Conflict is certified with a decision of the First District, which held that since the legislature clearly intended to allow dual convictions for solicitation of a minor and traveling to meet the minor, dual convictions do not violate double jeopardy. Vacated in part.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CLASS ACTIONS, CONTRACT

Bawtinhimer v. D.R. Horton, Oct-10-2014

J. Wallis finds that the trial court properly denied appellants class certification. Appellants' call for canceling all contracts between appellees and possible class members does not make the lawsuit appropriate for class action. In addition, the trial court did not have to analyze each claim in order to deny the class action. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

PROPERTY, FRAUD

Frazier v. Goszczynski, Oct-10-2014

J. Sawaya finds the trial court properly established appellee's title to a property. Appellants took the property, which they had never owned any interest in, without consent by recording a wild deed in public records. The law of adverse possession under color of title "was not enacted to give legitimacy to the actions of fortune hunters and mischievous interlopers who distort the law" by drafting a wild deed to take property from others for their own financial gain. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Millette v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Casanueva finds that the postconviction court improperly dismissed as untimely an amended motion filed by appellant's attorney. Although appellant's motion challenging the erroneous dismissal was itself untimely, since he was not adequately informed of his right to seek appellate review of the original determination, affirmance of the latter dismissal is without prejudice to his right to file a petition for belated appeal. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

HABEAS, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Rojas v. State, Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that the trial court properly dismissed appellant's writ of habeas corpus. Appellant's objections to inhumane conditions inside a correctional institution are "moot," because he was moved to another prison. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

JURY, THEFT, DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Haywood v. State, Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that the trial court improperly convicted defendant of both third-degree grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Defendant cannot be found guilty of both charges if they involve the same property. The jury should have been instructed on this before their verdict. Defendant must be given a new trial. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

HABEAS, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

MacKay v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Altenbernd finds that appellant was properly denied a writ of habeas corpus, in which he asserts that the information charging him with capital sexual battery nearly 40 years ago did not allege that he was over 18, and that this element of the crime was not a finding that the jury was required to make on the verdict form. Since appellant did not assert at the time that he was under 18, his age was not in dispute. Thus, the omission of that element, even from the jury instructions, did not constitute fundamental error. His claim in a motion for a rehearing that he was actually 16 at the time of the offense cannot be addressed because he did not make this allegation in his current petition. However, he may raise it, with proof, in a separate petition. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

DOUBLE JEOPARDY, THEFT

Chagnon v. State, Oct-10-2014

Per curiam, the court of appeals finds that the trial court improperly convicted and sentenced defendant for both petit theft and hiring a vehicle with the intent to defraud. The elements of a charge of hiring a vehicle with the intent to defraud are "included in the general theft statute," so defendant only committed one offense. In addition, defendant's status as a habitual felony offender precludes a fine. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CONSTITUTION

State v. English, Oct-10-2014

J. Berger finds that the trial court improperly concluded tha police officers did not have probable cause to stop defendant's vehicle for obstruction of his license plate. A tag light and wires were hanging in front of the license plate. Although the police officers could read the license plate when defendant turned his vehicle, state law requires the license plate to remain visible at all times. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

FIREARMS, SENTENCING, GANGS

McGill v. State, Oct-10-2014

J. Lawson finds that the trial court improperly based defendant's sentence for possession of a firearm by a delinquent on unproven allegations of gang activity and prior dismissed charges. Defendant must be re-sentenced. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, DNA

Carbajal v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Villanti finds that the postconviction court should have given appellant one chance to amend his motion before dismissing as successive all of his claims concerning his belated discovery of exculpatory DNA evidence. Though some of his allegations are ambiguous, the records attached to the dismissal order do not conclusively support the determination that the claims are successive. Appellant is entitled to an opportunity to amend his claim if he can show that he learned of the evidence after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced for robbery and carjacking. Reversed in part.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, PROBATION

Margolis v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Davis finds that appellant's probation was properly revoked and that he was properly sentenced for his underlying conviction of aggravated child abuse. However, the order of revocation misstated one of the probation conditions that he admitted to violating. That scrivener's error must be corrected on remand. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

INSURANCE, CIVIL PROCEDURE

Betancourt v. Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, Oct-10-2014

J. Silberman finds that the lower court properly dismissed as time-barred appellant homeowners' claim, in which they contest the amount of the payment for sinkhole damage they received from the guarantee association that took over the case for their insolvent insurer. Appellants did not file their claim within one year of the order of liquidation, as required by law. Affirmed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

JUVENILE LAW, SENTENCING

Burton v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. LaRose finds that appellant is entitled to postconviction relief on his motion to correct an illegal sentence because he received a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a murder he committed when he was 16, and mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders have since been declared unconstitutional. Conflict is certified with a district court ruling that declined to give retroactive effect to the decision declaring such sentences unconstitutional. Reversed.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Robinson v. Florida, Oct-10-2014

J. Kelly finds that the lower court should have given appellant an opportunity to amend his facially insufficient claim that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by advising him to reject a favorable plea offer. He failed to allege that the prosecutor and judge would have possibly accepted the plea offer that he contends he would have accepted but for his attorney's advice. He is entitled to amend his motion to correct that deficiency. Reversed in part.

Edit Delete Florida Courts Of Appeal

BANKING/LENDING, REAL ESTATE

Wells Fargo Bank v. Rutledge, Oct-10-2014

J. Sleet finds that the lower court improperly held that appellant bank is barred from proceeding with this foreclosure action against a homeowner who purchased the property in a foreclosure sale, as the bank failed to participate in a prior foreclosure proceeding involving the same home brought by a homeowner association. The bank, as the superior lien holder, was not a proper party in the prior action and thus was not required to participate in that case. However, there is a triable issue as to whether the signature on the note and mortgage held by the bank was a forgery. Reversed.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

TORT, CIVIL PROCEDURE, TRANSPORTATION

Georgia Regional Transportation JE-090 Authority v. Foster, Oct-10-2014

J. Ellington finds that a lower court improperly ruled that a passenger may pursue personal injury claims against the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority outside the statute of limitations for tort actions. The passenger filed a lawsuit more than two years after she allegedly suffered injuries while riding a bus. The state was not required to respond to the claimant's pre-litigation notice, therefore she cannot claim that the limitation period was tolled pending the state's response. Reversed.

Edit Delete Georgia Court Of Appeals

DEFAMATION, NEGLIGENCE

Boston v. Athearn, Oct-10-2014

J. Ellington finds that a lower court improperly dismissed negligence claims against a couple whose son created a fake Facebook page posing as a classmate and attributed false and offensive statements to the classmate in Facebook posts. A jury could find that the couple failed to supervise their son after school officials told them about the alleged defamation, allowing the defamatory posts to reach readers for another 11 months. However, claims that the boy's parents failed to deactivate the Facebook account, which was created on their computer, were properly dismissed, since only the person who signed up for the account could remove or alter the page. Reversed in part.

Edit Delete Guam Supreme Court

ELECTIONS, CIVIL RIGHTS, GOVERNMENT

In Re: Request of I Mina'Trentai Dos Na Liheslaturan Guahan v. , Oct-10-2014

J. Torres finds that the Guam legislature's request for a ballot measure regarding the use of medical marijuana is lawful. The legislature filed for a declaratory judgment after the Guam Election Commission refused to put the question on the Nov. 2014 ballot. The process used to put the measure -- Guam Public Law 32-134 -- on the ballot is a legislative submission by law and a referendum, and does not violate Guam law or the Organic Act.

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