Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Public Defender?
An individual who is employed by the Public Defender Service Corporation (PDSC) as an attorney is officially known as an Assistant Public Defender. He/she is admitted to the Guam Bar Association and is authorized to practice law on Guam. As with private lawyers, PDSC attorneys are bound by the Guam Rules of Professional Conduct in providing legal services to their clients.
Who does the PDSC represent?
For the most part, the PDSC represents clients who are not able to afford an attorney in private practice. Generally, clients are appointed to the PDSC by the courts of Guam, most often in criminal cases. In addition, family members or friends of a prospective client may also seek the assistance of the PDSC in certain types of cases. The PDSC has eligibility guidelines which are used to determine whether a client qualifies for our services or not. By law, the PDSC cannot accept revenue-generating cases (where one party is suing another for monetary remedies).
What types of cases does the PDSC handle?
The PDSC handles criminal cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies. In some instances, the courts will appoint the PDSC to represent individuals who are not capable of handling their personal/business affairs for various reasons. The PDSC also accepts uncontested guardianships, and through a federal grant, domestic cases where violence (or the threat thereof), is involved.
How do I get a Public Defender to represent me?
At your initial court appearance, there is usually an attorney from the PDSC present for the hearing. When your case is called, the judge will inquire as to whether or not you have retained a lawyer. If not, the judge will ask you some questions relating to your ability to pay for legal services. Generally, if the judge determines that you cannot afford private counsel, the PDSC will be appointed to represent you. Please read our current Eligibility Guidelines made effective by PDSC Resolution No. 04-14.
What is the difference between the PDSC and the office of the Attorney General?
The PDSC represents indigent defendants in criminal matters, while the office of the Attorney General represents the people of Guam in the prosecution of criminal matters.
What is the Alternate Public Defender?
The office of the Alternate Public Defender is a division of the PDSC. It is more commonly known as the conflicts public defender, in that whenever the PDSC cannot accept a case because of a conflict of interest (e.g., co-defendants are involved in one case, or the PDSC represents the victim in a case, etc.), the court will appoint the APD to represent the defendant in that particular case.
In case a person is not fluent with English, would language interpreters be available for him/her?
The courts of Guam provide language interpreters for defendants who are not proficient in the English language. Individuals requiring assistance in this matter should inform their attorneys as soon as possible, so that arrangements could be made with the courts for these services. This way, an interpreter would be present during your first meeting with your assigned attorney.