Guam’s oldest active lawsuit has closed — finally coming to an end 31 years and 25 days after being filed.
On Jan. 4 the Supreme Court of Guam affirmed the judgment of the trial court the Superior Court of Guam in a case originally filed Dec. 10 1973. The case throughout its history involved dozens of local and off-island characters.
The case involved a small piece of land whose boundaries were poorly marked within the vast Estate 278 which once belonged to Harold Dwight Look (See “Longest running court case on its last leg” in the March 22 2004 issue of the Journal.).
Prior to Look’s ownership Estate 278 was owned by Francisco Baza Leon Guerrero often referred to as the father of the Organic Act also known as Guam’s constitution. It was his brother Pedro who filed the dispute over ownership of land.
F.B. Leon Guerrero owned 3 200 hectares of real property in Yona known as Estate 278. In 1954 he borrowed $60 000 from the government of Guam securing the debt with a mortgage on the land. He later defaulted and the government foreclosed and purchased the property at the foreclosure sale (See “The Saga of Estate 278” in the June 2000 issue of Guam Business.).
In 1961 the property was redeemed by Frank D. Perez after Leon Guerrero sought his help. Leon Guerrero granted Perez a power of attorney to sell Estate 278. Perez convinced Look to purchase the property in its entirety. Look purchased the property for $80 000 at the request of Perez because Look and Leon Guerrero both avid ranchers had become good friends. Look agreed to sell Leon Guerrero 120 hectares of the land for $1. The sale was recorded on Oct. 11 1961.
After suffering a stroke Leon Guerrero conveyed his interest in Estate 278 to his brother Pedro who filed suit over the size of the land in 1973. The land in question had never been surveyed and the boundaries were poorly marked having only been a shaded portion on Look’s topographical map.
The Supreme Court upheld a trial court finding that the Look Estate failed to establish a factual record sufficient to prove adverse possession.
Estate 278 in its own right has a continuing history. Miyama Development Inc. purchased 1 300 acres of Look’s land in 1989 for about $27 million. This is now the location of the expansive LeoPalace Resort Guam. On June 19 1969 Look agreed to sell 40 acres of his property to RCA Global Communication Inc. for $82 500.
Look donated 1 000 acres to Texas A&M University with an estimated value of $52 million in 1992. On Jan. 7 1993 he gave the government of Guam 27 acres of land — the site of the World War II Manenggon Prison Camp where hundreds of Guamanians died during the Japanese occupation.
Look did not like talking about the land registration case. He felt he had been trying to help a friend and it was the greed of the Leon Guerrero family members — trying to get more land out of his simple gesture of good will — that had caused the litigation.
“It hurts me greatly that the families would fight over such a thing when my intentions all along were just and kind in nature. I only intended to help my friend and in return silly litigation is what happened after he [Leon Guerrero] passed ” Look said.
Look was born Nov. 21 1921 in Somerville Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1943. After serving in the Army in the Pacific during World War II he returned to Texas A&M and earned a master’s degree in municipal and sanitary engineering.
In 1953 he moved to Guam where he resided for 40 years. He established a construction firm invested in real estate raised cattle and built roads and bridges.
Look passed away Sept. 5 2002 at his home in Brenham Texas at the age of 80.MBJ