The unexpected and unforeseen effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed all aspects of life as we know it, as quarantine directives emptied city streets and prompted millions to shift to online, virtual platforms for work, shopping, and even medical care. Despite the upheaval, the Guam Law Week committee, made up of representatives from the Judiciary of Guam, the District Court of Guam and the Guam Bar Association, planned events to promote and educate the public about the 2020 Law Day theme, “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100,” which recognized how American women fought for, and won, the right to vote through their voice and action.
On Law Day, May 1, 2020, the Supreme Court of Guam held its first virtual appellate argument using videoconference technology. The historic event was livestreamed on the Judiciary of Guam’s YouTube channel, enabling all members of the public to observe the proceeding in real time. Where past Outreach Oral Argument events had the justices at the island’s high schools and university, this year’s milestone extended its appellate argument outreach to the entire island.
Education has long been a key component of Guam’s Law Week program. Leading up to Law Day, a local newspaper, the Pacific Daily News, published articles that publicized Law Week events, as well as opinion-editorial pieces from Governor of Guam Lourdes Leon Guerrero and Speaker of the Legislature Tina Muna-Barnes, describing the continued relevance of the 2020 Law Day theme.
Throughout May, and to support continued learning despite the closure of schools due to the pandemic, Guam’s Law Week program included several educational components. The COVID-19 Educational Challenge integrated the resources in iCivics.org, which engaged middle and high school students with educational games and interactive activities. Students registered with the website, completed activities, and were eligible to win cash prizes.
The traditional art contests for elementary school students from the island’s public, private, and homeschools included a coloring contest for Kinder to 2nd grade, and an art/poster contest for 3rd to 5th grade. The middle school essay contest asked students to consider what the Law Day theme meant to them, while high school students were asked to reflect on a contemporary problem with respect to equality in voting rights. Entries were submitted via drop box and by email.
Although the most popular Law Week event – fairy tale mock trial plays – could not be held in person, the students of Adacao Elementary School performed the first-ever virtual mock trial play on May 26, 2020. The students, who had already been rehearsing the mock trial of People of Guam v. Harry Potter in anticipation of Law Week, donned their costumes in a criminal trial that accused Harry Potter of the murder of Professor Quirrel. Participating via videoconference from home, the students’ performance was livestreamed on the Judiciary’s YouTube channel.
Guam’s Law Week events continued into June, with the island’s first-ever virtual proclamation signing held June 9, 2020, when Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero and Lt. Governor Joshua Tenorio declared May 1, 2020 Law Day, and May 31 to June 12 as Law Week. On June 12, 2020, Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido presented his Annual State of the Judiciary Address at the Guam Congress Building. The address was broadcast islandwide on the Guam Legislature’s television channel. During his address, the Chief Justice announced the winner of the prestigious Hustisia Award: a posthumous award to Retired Chief Justice Peter C. Siguenza, who had passed away in March 2020. Guam’s Law Week events wrapped up on June 19, 2020, with the virtual Law Week Awards Ceremony. Chief Justice Carbullido, Law Week Chair Justice Robert Torres, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, and Guam Bar President Jacqueline Terlaje recognized the winners of the Coloring Contest, Art Contest, and the Middle School and High School Essay Contests.
Despite the challenges of stay-at-home directives and social distancing, and although longtime favorite events such as the Law Fair and the “Race Judicata” 5K fun run, could not be held this year, Guam’s Law Week events continued to promote the importance of the rule of law, with landmark events that showcased Guam’s commitment to the Law Day program.