The Public Defender Service Corporation originally existed under the Judicare Program that was initiated on September 25, 1968 with the Department of Public Health and Social Services. It was comprised of a Public Defender, and Attorney II, and Administrative Law Secretary, a Special Investigator and a General Helper. The organization was conceived to render legal advice and counseling to indigents in civil, criminal and juvenile proceedings.
On March 30, 1972, Public Law 11-128 repealed Subchapter E of Chapter II, Title 10 of the Government Code of Guam, adding a new Title LXIII (63), Chapter I, establishing a separate Office of the Public Defender. Amongits provisions were: 1) the appointment of the Public Defender by the Governor, and 2) the authority given to the Public Defender to appoint other personnel that will accomplish the objectives of the office.
Three years later, Bill Number 291 became Public Law 13-51 (12 GCA, Chapter 11), establishing the Public Defender Service Corporation (PDSC) and creating a Board of Trustees for the organization, entrusting it with the governance of the Corporation. The Legislature enacted Public Law 27-104, Section 3, §11107 providing that the Board of Trustees be compromised as follows:
- Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam (who shall be Chairman)
- Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of Guam (who shall be Vice-Chairman)
- President of the Guam Bar Association
- 4th and 5th seats are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Guam, whose terms shall be for 3 years
Public Law 14-98, enacted on January 10, 1978, granted authority to the PDSC to represent claimants regarding land takings by the federal government. The corporation was to exert all efforts to insure that fair compensation is awarded to those landowners, their heirs and/or legatees who were paid less than fair market value as a result of 1) duress, unfair influence or other unconscionable action or 2) unfair, unjust or inequitable actions of the United States, as mandated by Section 204(a) of US Public Law 95-134. Thus, the PDSC witnesses the birth of the Land taking Claims Division within the organization. In 1980, Public Law 15-108 effectively merged this division with the remainder of the PDSC. Once more, the PDSC became an undivided body.
With respect to the to the PDSC’s caseload, in 1968 the corporation received 125 new cases. This grew to 1,712 new cases in 1978. In 1988, new cases reached 3,321 and by 1998 PDSC had retained a total of 3,876 new cases for that year. In Fiscal Year 2003, the number of new cases received totaled 2,290 and because of backlogs with pending criminal matters, a moratorium was implemented civil and certain types of domestic cases.
As the corporation grew, so did its budgetary needs. In Fiscal Year 1968, the authorized budget for the PDSC was $25,000, with a total of three full time employees. By Fiscal Year 1980, the authorized appropriations were $459,324 with twenty-four full time emplyees. For Fiscal Year 2007, the PDSC received an appropriation of $2,875,418.