1 A NATIVE S CALL FOR JUSTICE: THE CALL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT IN AMERICAN SAMOA Uilisone Falemanu Tua * I. INTRODUCTION II. CONGRESS CREATED FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS PURSUANT TO ARTICLE III OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION A. Congress Has Plenary Power over the Territories under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution and Can Create Territorial Courts under Such Authority B. Territorial Federal District Courts Exist in Every Territory Except American Samoa Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands Guam Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands III. THE U.S. HAS A TRUST RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICAN SAMOA AND THROUGH THIS RELATIONSHIP CONGRESS SHOULD ACT TO ENSURE THAT RIGHTS OF SAMOAN RESIDENTS ARE PROTECTED A. The Application of the U.S. Constitution to the Territories Is Perplexing and Unclear B. Preservation of the Samoan Land System Is an Important Aspect of the U.S. American Samoa Relationship C. The Unique Judicial System of American Samoa Is the Only Appropriate Venue to Hear Local Issues Regarding Matai Title and Communal Land U.S. v. Lee U.S. v. Gurr IV. THE SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL IS APPLICABLE TO THE TERRITORY OF AMERICAN SAMOA V. THE GAO AND ITS RECOMMENDED PROPOSALS ADDRESSING FEDERAL COURTS IN AMERICAN SAMOA A. Establishing a District Court in American Samoa as a Division of the District of Hawaii Creates Bad Public Policy and Is Unworkable B. Expanding the Federal Jurisdiction of the High Court Is Not an Appropriate Solution Because It Creates More Problems * Third year law student at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
2 2009] Tua 247 Than It Solves VI. THE BEST SOLUTION IS THE CREATION OF AN ARTICLE IV FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT IN AMERICAN SAMOA A. The Ninth Circuit Is a Favorable Judicial Environment for the People of American Samoa B. Samoan Fear of Infringement upon American Samoa Communal Land and Matai System from the Creation of a Federal District Court Is Misguided VII. CONCLUSION I. INTRODUCTION E lele le toloaaema au i le vai. 1 These are my mother s words before I left home for the military and to further my education in the U.S. This phrase literally means that wherever the toloa bird flies, it always lands in the water. The message conveys that one should never forget where one comes from. A Samoan child is taught to never forget the well being of the families, villages, and people of Samoa. A Samoan leaves his family in search of a better future with the intent to give back to the community. Samoa 2 is my home. It is the historic location of the Garden of Paradise. 3 Our culture and identity bind us to the land that we have inhabited since the beginning of time. Every morning you wake up to the saumalū o le taeao 4 seeing the sun shining on village faleo os. 5 The sunrise brings energy to the land and revitalizes the spirits and vigor of the 1 Toloa is a Samoan bird also known as the gray duck. It is pronounced Eh lehleh leh toh-loh-ah ah-eh mah-ah-ooh ih leh vah-i. 2 Samoa is an independent country distinct from American Samoa; however, I use the term Samoa to include both Samoa and American Samoa. 3 Jeffrey B. Teichert, Resisting Temptation in the Garden of Paradise: Preserving The Role of Samoan Custom in the Law of American Samoa, 3 GONZ. J. INT L L. 35, 572( ) [hereinafter Teichert, Paradise] (quoting Talili v. Momosea, 4 Am. Samoa 2d. 23, (Lands & Titles Div. 1987)) 4 Translated as morning breeze. It is pronounced as sah-ooh-mah-lu-o-lay-tahay-ah-oh. One Account of the naming of Samoa indicates that the earth was pregnant, and that Salevao, the god of rocks, observed motion in the moa, or center of the earth. When the child named Moa was born, Salevao provided water, which was made sa (sacred) to wash the child, and afterward created springs to bring the sacred water to the rocks to sustain life, making everything growing on the earth sa, or sacred to Moa. This legend is a striking metaphor for the actual volcanic activity known to have created Samoa. Id. 5 Translated as traditional Samoan house. It is pronounced as fah-lay-oh-oh.
3 248 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol Samoan people. The sunset transforms the clouds into a colorful conflagration covering the horizon. As one scholar describes: The Samoan archipelago itself is a luxuriant tropical rain forest in the center of the Polynesian chain. Lush volcanic mountains and cliffs carpeted with dense jungle rise inspiringly out of beautiful aquamarine waves. Blue tide pools, lava beaches and cliffs, and geyser-like blowholes add color and charm to a magnificent coastline. 6 Wherever I go, the words of my mother echo in my mind. It is a call to Samoans abroad to remember their families back home. It is our responsibility to make sure that no act of injustice has been done to our people back home. It is that interest of ensuring justice that drives me to write this paper. My people are taken from their homes and families and tried in foreign and unsympathetic courts. People not familiar with Samoan culture, morals, values, and traditions, determine our fate. Of course, if you expect to reap the benefits of the American system, you should also expect the burdens that come with those benefits. Fundamental to the American system is the right to trial by a jury of one s peers. As Chief Justice Burger elaborated, [One] great right is that of trial by jury. This provides that neither life, liberty nor property can be taken from the possessor until twelve of his unexceptional countrymen and peers of his vicinage, who from that neighborhood may reasonably be supposed to be acquainted with his character and the characters of the witnesses, upon a fair trial, and full enquiry, face to face, in open court before as many of the people as choose to attend, shall pass their sentence upon oath against him. 7 Due to the lack of a federal judicial process in American Samoa to try residents charged with federal crimes, Samoans are not afforded the full extent of their Sixth Amendment rights to a trial by jury of their peers. 8 6 See Teichert, Paradise, supra note 3, at Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 568 (1980) (holding that the right of the press and the public to attend a trial was implicit in the guarantees of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). 8 See Michael W. Weaver, The Territory Federal Jurisdiction Forgot: The Question of Greater Federal Jurisdiction in American Samoa, 17 PAC. RIM L. & POL Y J. 325, 352 (2008) [hereinafter Weaver, Territory]. The lack of cohesive federal judicial presence creates problems for both the federal government and residents of American Samoa. The limited federal jurisdiction requires the removal of American Samoa residents to other jurisdictions to be tried for violations of federal law. Due to these renditions, American Samoa residents are not afforded the
4 2009] Tua 249 A Governmental Accountability Office report ( GAO ) acknowledges residents thoughts, both positive and negative, in approaching this situation: Reasons offered for changing the existing system focus primarily on the difficulties of adjudicating matters of federal law arising in American Samoa, principally based on American Samoa s remote location, and the desire to provide American Samoans more direct access to justice. Reasons offered against any changes focus primarily on concerns about effects of an increased federal presence on Samoan culture and traditions and concerns about juries impartiality given close family ties. 9 As the GAO report notes, although cost is an issue, considerations of equity, justice, and cultural preservation should be the principal focus. 10 These considerations recognize the arbitrariness of dragging Samoans charged with federal crimes 2,000 miles away from their families to defend themselves in other unfamiliar jurisdictions. This practice is inherently unfair. 11 Families of the accused undergo a great burden in these situations, particularly in trying to attend the trial. A family member of a Samoan resident 12 charged with federal crimes recalled her dramatic experience: I felt inferior to be standing in that courtroom. My uncle is the matai 13 of our family. I was fortunate to attend his trial because I was up here for school. However, my whole family wanted to be there but they could not afford to travel opportunity to be tried by a jury of their peers. Id. (emphasis added). 9 William O. Jenkins, American Samoa: Issues Associated with Some Federal Court Options (2008) [hereinafter Jenkins, GAO] (emphasis added), available at (last visited Jan. 17, 2010). 10 Id. at 1 (emphasis added). Potential cost elements includes agency rental costs, personnel costs, and operational costs, most of which would be funded by congressional appropriations. Id. 11 Statement of the Honorable Togiola T.A. Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa, Before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources (Sept. 18, 2008) (on file with author). 12 See Defendant Pleads Guilty in Case Involving Bribery and Fraud Scheme in American Samoa (Jan. 27, 2005), available at (last visited Jan. 17, 2010). Kerisiano Sili Sataua, the former director of the American Samoa Department of Education, has pleaded guilty to commit bribery and fraud concerning federal programs, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 37. Id. 13 Samoan word for chief. It is pronounced as mah-tah-eee.
5 250 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol all the way to Hawaii. The moment he was taken from home was the last moment my whole family saw him until he was released from jail. 14 Juries in jurisdictions around the U.S. are unaware of Samoan local customs and beliefs. But understanding the Samoan system of beliefs is relevant in providing a fair trial. As one commentator stated, this is a natural result of exporting a western style democracy to non-western cultures. 15 As late Governor Peter Tali Coleman 16 explained: The problem of white-collar crime is not unique to Samoa, nor is it unique to the American territories. Stories of political corruption abound on virtually a daily basis from French Polynesia in the East to Papua New Guinea in the West. Why? Because we re all trying to cope with [a] western governmental system implanted by now departed administering authorities, systems which were build on western experiences and assumptions of human behavior and instincts which do not necessarily always translate well or full into island societies. 17 In a recent controversy involving Lt. Governor Sunia and Territorial Senator Lam Yuen, 18 an integral part of their defense against public corruption charges was the consideration of Samoan family relationships and the give-and-take of reciprocal exchange in the Samoan culture. 19 Though some have opposed this as demoralizing the Samoan culture, 20 it is unduly unfair being tried in front of juries who are unknowledgeable and likely unsympathetic to your culture and beliefs. A 14 Interview with Grace Tapuni Lafitaga, in Honolulu, Haw. (Feb. 1, 2009). 15 See Teichert, Paradise, supra note 3, at American Samoa Government, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009). Governor Peter Tali Coleman was the first Samoan to be appointed governor of American Samoa, a U.S. territory, and later the first elected governor there. Id. 17 Teichert, Paradise, supra note 3, at 3 (quoting Peter Tali Coleman, Peter Tali Coleman on the FBI Report, Samoa News, Aug. 7, 1995, at 10-11). 18 See Lieutenant Governor and Territorial Senator for American Samoa indicted for Public Corruption Charges (September 10, 2007), available at (last visited Nov. 5, 2009). 19 See Fili Sagapolutele, Feds oppose expert witnesses in Faoa and Tulifua, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009). 20 See Uilisone Falemanu Tua, Demoralizing the Samoa Culture, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009).
6 2009] Tua 251 serious concern arises when the Sixth Amendment right (of a trial by one s peers) may be compromised by a trial before jurors who may have no understanding of my people, or who may have a bias against Samoans. 21 Many Americans are unaware that there exists a U.S. territory called American Samoa and it is impossible for Americans to understand a culture they don t even know exists. 22 Furthermore, there is a concern about human trafficking and increasing federal-grant related corruption in American Samoa. 23 The current judicial system in the territory is not appropriate for adjudicating these matters. 24 The most viable and appropriate solution is the establishment of a federal court in American Samoa. In Part II of this paper, I will discuss the creation of federal district courts in the U.S. I will also discuss the creation of territorial federal district courts, including an analysis of how federal courts were established in each territory. In Part III, I will examine the relationship between American Samoa and the United States. Here, I will also discuss the application of the American Constitution to the territories, and why it is significantly important to protect the Samoan communal land and matai system. I will analyze the judicial system in American Samoa and explain why it is not an appropriate venue for federal crimes. Furthermore, I will also discuss the recent federal cases from American Samoa, which give rise to the need for a federal court. In Part IV, I will discuss cases involving the application of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial to the U.S. territories, and how jury trials were held to be applicable to American Samoa. In Part V, I will examine the proposals given by the GAO and elaborate on why some of the GAO proposals create more problems than they solve. In particular I will discuss why the proposal to expand the jurisdiction of the High Court of American Samoa to include federal matters is an inappropriate 21 Faleomavaega: American Samoa Needs A Federal Court, Pacific Islands Report, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009). 22 When I was in Army Basic Training in Fort Knox, KY, I told one of my camaraderie that I was from Samoa. His response was, Where is that? Surprisingly, half of my platoon did not know where Samoa is located nor did they know anything about the Samoan culture and system of beliefs. 23 See Jenkins, GAO, supra note 9, at 17: In 2003, Lee (U.S. v. Lee 159 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 2001)) was convicted in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii of involuntary servitude, conspiring to violate civil rights, extortion, and money laundering. Another federal case in 2006 (U.S. v. Kelemete (D. Haw. filed Mar. 1, 2006)) resulted in guilty pleas from the prison warden and his associate for conspiring to deprive an inmate of rights, by assaulting him and causing bodily injury. Id. 24 See infra Part III(C).
7 252 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol solution.finally, in Part VI, I will demonstrate that instead of expanding the federal jurisdiction of the High Court, the most appropriate and effective solution is the establishment of a federal district court in American Samoa as in other insular territories. Furthermore, I will discuss why the Ninth Circuit is a more promising venue for federal appeals originating from American Samoa. Also, by analyzing Wabol v Villacrusis, I will illustrate why the people of American Samoa need not worry about Equal Protection challenges against the communal land and matai system due to the establishment of a federal district court in the territory. II. CONGRESS CREATED FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS PURSUANT TO ARTICLE III OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION The U.S. federal court system consists of one Supreme Court, thirteen circuit courts of appeals, ninety-four district courts, and approximately 663 district court judgeships including the territorial district courts. 25 Article III, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution 26 vests judicial power in the United States Supreme Court, but also permits Congress to create inferior courts to exercise federal judicial power. Article III section 1 states: The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their Services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. 27 Originally, through the Judiciary Act of 1789, 28 Congress established three different types of courts: the Supreme Court, the circuit courts, and the district courts. 29 The Act established thirteen district courts, authorized the appointment of clerks and prescribed procedural rules. 30 The Act limited federal district and circuit courts jurisdiction to admiralty, diversity, U.S. 25 See Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at U.S. CONST. art. III, Id. (emphasis added). Federal district courts created under Article III are usually called Article III courts. 28 Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Cong. Ch. 20, 1 Stat. 73 (1789). The Judiciary Act of 1789 was signed by President George Washington on September 24, Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at See Russell R. Wheeler and Cynthia Harrison, Creating the Federal Judicial System, Second Edition, at 4 (1994), available at [hereinafter Wheeler, Federal].
8 2009] Tua 253 plaintiff cases and federal criminal cases. 31 Federal diversity of citizenship jurisdiction was also implemented. 32 Later on, the jurisdictional minimum of $500 was added. 33 Due to America s westward expansion and the admission of new states, there was a need for reorganization of the judicial system. 34 Congress reorganized the system into the judicial structure present today with the passage of the Circuit Court of Appeals Act of Newly created circuit courts of appeal shifted the majority of the appellate caseload from the U.S. Supreme Court to these newly formed courts. 36 Today, district courts have jurisdiction primarily over questions arising under federal law and those cases involving diversity of citizenship. 37 As discuss below, Congress over time created federal district courts in the territories similar in some circumstances to those of the Article III federal district courts. A. Congress Has Plenary Power over the Territories under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution and Can Create Territorial Courts under Such Authority In addition to creating inferior federal courts, Congress has the authority to create territorial courts to adjudicate matters outside of Article III courts. This authority was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in American Insurance Company v. Canter. 38 In Canter, the Court proclaimed that Congress has the authority to create territorial courts, not under Article III, but from the Territorial Clause found in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. 39 Accordingly, restrictions 40 contained in Article III do not apply to territorial courts. 41 The Territorial Clause 42 states: 31 Id. at Id. Federalist worried about the potential for control where judges by state legislatures, which selected judges in most states and had the authority to remove them in more than half the states.... the Federals worried that that state judges might be reluctant to enforce unpopular contracts or generally to foster the stable legal conditions necessary for commercial growth. Id Id. at 7. The Act established a jurisdictional minimum of $500, so that defendants would not have to travel long distances in relatively minor cases, and made state laws the rules of decision in the absence of applicable federal law. Id. 34 Id. at 12. President Lincoln in his first message to Congress in 1861 warned that the country outgrew its judicial system. Id. 35 Circuit Court of Appeals Act, 51 Cong. Ch. 517, 26 Stat. 826 (March 3, 1891). 36 Wheeler, Federal, supra note 30, at See 28 U.S.C.A (West 2009) (establishing jurisdiction of the federal district courts). 38 American Insurance Company v. Canter, 26 U.S. 511 (1828). 39 See Peter Nicolas, American-Style Justice in No Mann s Land, 36 GA. L. REV. 895, (2002) [hereinafter Nicolas, No Mann].
9 254 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state. 43 Non-Article III courts are sometimes called legislative courts because they are created by Congress pursuant to its powers outside Article III. 44 Non-Article III courts include the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals, and the U.S. Tax Court, which were created pursuant to Congress power in Article I. 45 They are commonly referred to as Article I courts. 46. Similarly, territorial courts are referred to as Article IV courts because they are created pursuant to Article IV of the U.S. Constitution Id. at First, Congress is limited to vesting federal courts with judicial as opposed to administrative or legislative power, due to the judicial power being vested in the U.S. Supreme Court under Article III. Second, scope of judicial power is limited to enumerated categories of cases and controversies including arising under federal law and diversity citizenship cases. Third, judges of the Supreme Court and the inferior federal courts have life tenure and that their salaries cannot be decreased during their tenure in office. Id. 41 Id (citing American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 26 U.S. 511, 546 (1828)). These courts then are not constitutional courts, in which the judicial power conferred by the Constitution on the general government, can be deposited. They are incapable of receiving it. They are legislative courts, created in virtue of the general right of sovereignty which exists in the government, or in virtue of that clause which enables the territory belonging to the United States. The jurisdiction with which they are invested not a part of that judicial power which is defined in the 3d article of the Constitution, but is conferred by Congress, in the execution of those general powers which that body possesses over the territories of the United States. Id. 42 U.S. CONST. art. IV, 3, cl Id. (emphasis added). 44 See Stanley K. Laughlin, The Constitutional Structure of the Courts of the United States Territories: The Case of American Samoa, 13 U. HAW. L. REV. 379, 383 (1991) [hereinafter Laughlin, Constitution]. 45 Id. at 383; see also U.S. CONST. art. 1, 8 ( The Congress shall have the power... to constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. ). 46 U.S. Courts, About U.S. Federal Courts, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009). Article I courts include the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals, and the U.S. Tax Court. Id. 47 See Laughlin, Constitution, supra note 44, at
10 2009] Tua 255 In creating a federal judicial system for most American territories, Congress first created a single non-article III federal court with regular and general jurisdiction similar to the one created for the territory of Alaska in In areas with an already functioning judiciary like Hawaii, Congress adopted the existing judicial system and gave the President authority to appoint judges, subject to Senate approval, and to remove justices of the Hawaiian Supreme Court. 49 Also, Congress established a federal district court modeled after a typical Article III court and having the same jurisdiction and powers of a U.S. district and circuit court, except that the President appointed the judge for a six-year term. 50 Currently, territorial courts exist in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ( CNMI ), and American Samoa. B. Territorial Federal District Courts Exist in Every Territory Except American Samoa All of the American territories, except American Samoa, have a federal district court established pursuant to an Organic Act. 51 Although an Organic Act seems relevant, it is not necessary for the establishment of a federal district court Puerto Rico Puerto Rico became an unincorporated American territory when it was ceded to the United States by Spain in an 1898 treaty. 53 The U.S. military controlled the islands until Congress passed the Foraker Act, 54 which provided for the establishment of a local government. 55 The Act 48 See Nicolas, No Mann, supra note 39, at Id. Hawaii was different from other western territories including Alaska because prior to annexation, Hawaii was an independent nation with a three-tiered judicial system consisting of district courts for minor cases, courts of general jurisdiction known as circuit courts, and a supreme court. Id 50 Id. 51 See generally Weaver, Territory, supra note 8; see also infra Part II(B)(1-4). 52 See e.g., To Establish a Federal District Court of American Samoa, H.R. 4711, available at (last visited Jan. 17, 2010) [hereinafter HR 4711]. 53 Treaty of Peace, art. II, 30 Stat. 1754, 1755 (Dec. 10, 1898) (ceding to Puerto Rico as well as other West Indies islands then under Spanish rule, to the U.S.). 54 Foraker Act, 56 Cong. Ch. 191, 31 Stat. 77 (1900) (codified at 48 U.S.C.A 731 (West 2009)). 55 See Jon M. Van Dyke, The Evolving Relationship between the United States and its Affiliated U.S. Flag-Islands, 14 U. HAW. L. REV. 445, 472 (1992) [hereinafter Van Dyke, Flag-Islands].
11 256 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol provided for a governor, an executive council, 56 justices of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, and a judge of the newly created U.S. District Court, 57 all appointed by the U.S President. 58 The Act also retained existing local tribunals and allowed the U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeals from the district court and the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. 59 The district court exercised no more jurisdiction than a typical Article III district court. 60 Diversity jurisdiction, however, was broader in one significant respect in that the district court was vested with jurisdiction to hear cases involving parties of U.S. or foreign citizenship, and where the amount in controversy exceeded $ Change occurred when Congress passed the Jones Act. 62 The Act conferred citizenship on Puerto Ricans and extended Puerto Rico s Bill of Rights to include the rights of Due Process and Equal Protection. 63 The district court s jurisdiction was extended to disputes involving citizens of a foreign state not residing in Puerto Rico and the amount in controversy Cong. Ch. 191, at 81. The governor s term was four years. The executive council consisted of a secretary, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, commissioner of the interior and commissioner of education, and five others of good repute; there was also a requirement that five members be native inhabitants of Puerto Rico. 57 Id. at 84. The district court for said district shall be called the district court of the United States for Porto Rico and shall have power to appoint all necessary officials and assistants, including a clerk, and interpreter, and such commissioners.... Id. 58 See Dorian A. Shaw, The Status of Puerto Rico Revisited: Does the Current U.S.-Puerto Rico Relationship Uphold International Law?, 17 FORDHAM, INT L L.J. 1006, 1019 (1994) [hereinafter Shaw, Puerto Rico] Cong. Ch. 191, at See Nicolas, No Mann, supra note 39, at Id. 62 Jones Act, 64 Cong. Ch. 145, 39 Stat. 951 (1917). 63 Id. at 953: Sec. 2: That no law shall be enacted in Porto Rico which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny any person therein the equal protection of the laws.... Sec 5: That all citizens of Porto Rico... are hereby declared, and shall be deemed and held to be, citizens of the United States. Id.
12 2009] Tua 257 was also increased to $3, The Act also incorporated the Puerto Rican district court into the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. 65 Later, Puerto Rico went through various changes with passage of the Puerto Rico Elective Governor Act of A constitution was approved by the residents, and Commonwealth status was achieved when Congress approved the Puerto Rican constitution on July 25, Establishment of the Commonwealth did not change the jurisdiction of the federal district court. 68 Nevertheless, as one commentator notes, a number of changes to the district court of Puerto Rico have made it indistinguishable from a typical Article III district court. 69 For example, judges for the district court have life tenure and fixed salaries, and the court s jurisdiction is identical to that of an Article III district court U.S. Virgin Islands The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island. 71 In the early 1900s, the U.S bought these islands from Denmark for 25 million dollars under the fear that Germany might occupy them. 72 With no voice from the U.S. Virgin residents, a Danish plebiscite approved the sale and control over the islands was transferred to the U.S. Navy Department for use in its operation against the Germans Id. at 965: Sec. 41: The Porto Rico shall constitute a judicial district to be called the district of Porto Rico..... Said district court shall have jurisdiction of all controversies where all of the parties on either side of the controversy are citizens or subjects of a foreign State or States... wherein the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive interest or cost, the sum or value of $3,000. Id. 65 Id. at 966: Sec. 43: That writs of error and appeals from the final judgments and decrees of the Supreme Court of Porto Rico may be taken and prosecuted to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First circuit and to the Supreme Court of the United States, as now provided by law. Id. 66 See Shaw, Puerto Rico, supra note 58, at See 48 U.S.C.A 731 (West 2009). 68 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at Nicolas, No Mann, supra note 39, at Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at See Virgin Islands Map, available at (last visited November 9, 2009). 72 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at 331.
13 258 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol The first Organic Act 74 for the U.S. Virgin Islands passed on March 3, It created a temporary government including a judicial system, a bicameral legislature and a governor appointed by the President. 75 In 1931, the administration of the islands was transferred to the Secretary of Interior. 76 Although another Organic Act 77 was enacted in 1936 to provide for greater self-governance, it failed to address the election of a governor who was still appointed by the President. Even the new Revised Organic Act of did not address this issue. 79 After a constitutional convention in and the passage of the Elective Governor Act, 81 the U.S. President s veto power on local legislation was eliminated and the islands were no longer under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. 82 In 1963, a federal district court was established, and it was comprised of one judicial district divided into two judicial divisions: one division contained the island of St. Thomas and St. John and the other contained the island of St. Croix. 83 The district court has jurisdiction over bankruptcy matters and U.S. income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands. 84 The President of the United States appoints the judges for a term of ten years. 85 Except where limited by statute, the district courts have general jurisdiction over matters not conferred upon the inferior courts of the Islands. 86 The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reviews decisions from the federal district court and the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands ). 74 Virgin Islands Acquisition Act, 64 Cong. Ch. 171, 39 Stat (Mar. 3, 75 Edierto Roman & Theron Simmons, Membership Denied: Subordination and Subjugation Under United States Expansionism, 39 SAN DIEGO L. REV. 437, 496 (2002). 76 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at 336 (citing Exec. Order 5566). 77 Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, 74 Pub. L. No. 749, 49 Stat (June 22, 1936) (codified at 48 U.S.C (1936)). 78 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, 74 Cong. Ch. 699, 68 Stat. 497 (July 22, 1954) (codified at 48 U.S.C (1954). 79 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Id. Goals were proposed for the Convention and in the end a Constitution was adopted. Id. at Id. at Id. 83 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at Id. at 337. Virgin Islands federal district courts jurisdiction parallels the jurisdiction of the other U.S. federal district courts. Id. at U.S.C.A 1614(a) (West 2009). 86 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at U.S.C.A 1613 (West 2000).
14 2009] Tua Guam In 1898, Guam was ceded, along with Puerto Rico, by Spain to the U.S in the Treaty of Paris. 88 Because of the increased military presence in the World Wars, Guam, under the U.S. Navy, went through a rapid transformation from an agriculturally-based society to an Americanized society. 89 The Guam Organic Act of granted U.S. citizenship, 91 a bill of rights, 92 and a legislative body 93 for the residents of the territory but did not give much local autonomy. 94 The Organic Act was later amended in 1968 to give greater autonomy to Guam by allowing its residents to elect their own governor. 95 The Act also created the District Court of Guam and a judicial branch constituting a unified judicial system 96 with jurisdiction over local matters. 97 The district court s jurisdiction parallels that of other district courts of the United States and includes bankruptcy matters and original jurisdiction over matters not vested in another court by the Guam legislature. 98 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviews appeals from the district court, and the President, with consent of the Senate, appoints the judges for a term of ten years Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands were part of the post-world War II United Nations Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands; the Islands later entered separate negotiations with the U.S. regarding their political 88 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at Organic Act of Guam, 81 Cong. Ch. 512, 64 Stat. 384 (1950) (codified at 48 U.S.C.A 1421 (West 2009)) Cong. Ch. 512, at Id. at Id. at Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at 338 n.112. Guamanians and other American citizens needed military permission to enter or exit Guam. These restrictions were later lifted in Id. 95 Id. at U.S.C.A 1424 (West 2009). A unified judicial system... include an appellate court designated as the Supreme Court of Guam, a trial court designated as the Superior Court of Guam, and such other lower courts. Id. at 1424(a)(1). 97 Id. at Id. at 1424(b-c). 99 Id. at , 1424b(a).
15 260 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol future. 100 Part of the U.S. interest in negotiating with the Northern Mariana Islands separately from the other islands was due to its strategic location in the Northern Pacific. 101 In 1976, the Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Covenant) 102 was passed granting Commonwealth status and the right to self-autonomy and selfgovernment. 103 A constitution for the Commonwealth was adopted in 1977 and went into effect in January The Covenant granted citizenship to residents, 105 exempted the islands from federal immigration and minimum wage laws, 106 and protected land ownership from alienation to foreigners. 107 To protect the interest of land to the descendants of CNMI's people, the Covenant provided: Except as otherwise provided in this Article... the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands, in view of the importance of the ownership of land for the culture and traditions of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, and in order to protect them against exploitation and to promote their economic advancement and self-sufficiency... may thereafter, regulate the alienation of permanent and long-term interests in real property so as to restrict the acquisition of such interest to persons of Northern Mariana islands descent; and may regulate the extent to which a person may own or hold land The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands 109 has jurisdiction similar to that of a U.S. district court, which also includes bankruptcy 100 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at Gretchen Kirschensheiter, Comment, Resolving the Hostility: Which Laws Apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Where Federal and Local Laws Conflict, 21 U. HAW. L. REV. 237, (1999) [hereinafter Gretchen, Commonwealth]. 102 Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Pub. L , 90 Stat. 263 (Mar. 24, 1976) (codified as 48 U.S.C.A 1801 (West 2009)) [hereinafter Covenant]. 103 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at 481; see also Gretchen, Commonwealth, supra note 101, at 243 n.38 ( Unlike other territories governed by organic acts, the United States has a limited ability to alter the Covenant unilaterally. ). 104 Weaver, Territory, supra note 8, at Covenant, supra note 102, at art. III, Id. at art. V, 503(a). 107 Id. at art. VIII, 805(a). 108 Id. (emphasis added) U.S.C.A. 1821(a) (West 2009).
16 2009] Tua 261 matters and original jurisdiction over matters not reserved to local courts. 110 The President, with the consent of the Senate, appoints a judge for the district court with a term of ten years, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review appeals from the district court. 111 III. THE U.S. HAS A TRUST RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICAN SAMOA AND THROUGH THIS RELATIONSHIP CONGRESS SHOULD ACT TO ENSURE THAT RIGHTS OF SAMOAN RESIDENTS ARE PROTECTED American Samoa is the only U.S. insular area in the southern hemisphere and is located approximately 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii with a population estimate of 65, Residents of American Samoa are nationals 113 of the United States but many become naturalized U.S. citizens. 114 They have many rights as citizens of the United States, but do not have the right to vote in U.S. elections, and American Samoa s Congressional Representative does not have a voting right in final approval of legislation in Congress. 115 The relationship between the U.S. and American Samoa started during the final years of the nineteenth century. 116 Due to great interest in the Samoan islands shown by Germany, Great Britain, and the U.S., these three countries were drawn into disputes when they met in Apia 117 Bay on March 5, When the three countries met on that day, 119 a (a-b) (b)(1), 1823(c). 112 Jenkins, GAO, supra note 9, at 4 n.6. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau Data indicated that about 32,470 of the total population of 57,291 were born in American Samoa, and thus U.S nationals. The Census data did not report the number of U.S. nationals who have become U.S. citizens. Id U.S.C.A 1101(a)(21-22) (West 2009): (21) The national means a person owing permanent allegiance to a state. (22) The term national of the United States means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States. Id. 114 Jenkins, GAO, supra note 9, at 4, n.7 Citizenship is derived either from the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution ( All persons born or naturalized in the United States... subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States ) or from a specific statute conferring citizenship on the inhabitants on that area. Congress has not enacted a statute conferring citizenship for American Samoa. Id. 115 Id. at Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Present Capital of the Independent Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa or Upolu Island. Pronounced as Ah-pee-ahh. 118 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at 492.
17 262 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol horrendous hurricane wrecked all of the ships killing 142 Germans and a U.S. sailor. 120 To resolve the tensions, the three countries met in Berlin and settled on the General Act of Under this Act, Western Samoa would be an independent and neutral nation, but the established government for American Samoa would be controlled by Great Britain, Germany, and the U.S., along with Western Samoa. 122 Even after this Act, tension between the three countries grew. They finally decided to resolve their differences and arbitrate their competing claims by entering into a convention to divide Samoa into two nations. 123 The resulting Treaty of annulled the original General Act. 125 Later, the Samoan chiefs of Tutuila 126 accepted the inevitable and agreed to sign a Deed of Cession with the United States on April 17, 1900 whereby the Samoan chiefs ceded to the United States the islands, rocks, reefs, foreshores and waters of Tutuila, and to erect the island of Tutuila into a separate District to be annexed to the United States, to be known as the District of Tutuila. 127 The Deed of Cession also referred to the Treaty of 1899 whereby the three outside powers recognized the sovereignty of the government and people of Samoa and the Samoan group of islands as an independent State. 128 There was also a separate Deed ceding the Manu a Islands. 129 These deeds (Tutuila and Manu a) were not ratified by the U.S. government until Id. Drawn into the disputes, one British, three German, and three U.S. warships were in Apia Bay on March 5, Id. 120 Id. 121 Id. at 493 (referred to as the General Act of 1889). 122 Id. 123 Id. 124 Convention of 1899, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009) (follow Legal Resources hyperlink; then follow Territorial Organic Documents hyperlink). Id. 125 See General Act of 1889, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009) (follow Legal Resources hyperlink; then follow Territorial Organic Documents hyperlink). 126 Another name for the island of American Samoa. It is pronounced as Twotwo-ee-lah. 127 See Deed of Cession, available at (last visited Apr. 25, 2009) (follow Legal Resources hyperlink; then follow Territorial Organic Documents hyperlink) [hereinafter DEED]. 128 Id. 129 See Cession of Manu a Islands, available at (last visited Apr.
18 2009] Tua 263 Of particular importance is the Deed of Cession for the island of Tutuila. 131 The Deed of Cession establishes a trust responsibility on the part of the United States. 132 It establishes a contractual-agreement between the people of Samoa and the United States that restrains what Congress can do in way of passing legislation for American Samoa. 133 One commentator has compared the Deed of Cession to the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori chiefs and Great Britain. 134 In the Deed, the Chiefs 135 were mindful to protect their rights to land and culture by specifically stating: The Government of the United States of America shall respect and protect the individual rights of all people dwelling in Tutuila to their lands and other property in said District.... The Chiefs of the towns will be entitled to retain their individual control of the separate towns.... But the enactment of legislation and the general control shall remain firm with the United States of America. 136 Though this language preserves a significant right for Samoans in controlling their land system, it is silent on contemplating any venue for residents of American Samoa charged with federal crimes to have a fair trial by jury of their peers. As discussed more fully below, the only other venue, the judicial system of American Samoa, provides little relief , 2009) (follow Legal Resources hyperlink; then follow Territorial Organic Documents hyperlink). Manu a is another group of islands in the American Samoa chain, which entered a separate deed with the U.S. It is pronounced as Mah-new-ahh U.S.C.A 1661 (West 2009). 131 See DEED, supra note Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Id. 134 Id. The treaty of Waitangi is the document in which the Maori chiefs acknowledged the British presence, but in this document they protected their rights to their lands and to self-governance. Id. 135 The following Samoan Chiefs signed on to ratify the Deed of Cession: Tuitele of Leone, Fa aivae of Leone, Letuli of Ili Ili, Fuimaono of Aoloau, Satele of Vailoa, Leoso of Leone, Olo of Leone, Namoa of Aitulagi, Malota of Aitulagi, Tuana itau of Pava ia i, Lualemaga of A asu, Amituana i of Ituau, Pele, Mauga, Le iato, Faumuina, Masaniai, Tupuola, Soliai, and Mauga. See Cession of Tutuila and Aunu u, available at (last visited Nov. 11, 2009) (follow Historical Documents hyperlink; then follow Cession of Tutuila and Aunu u hyperlink). 136 See DEED, supra note See infra Part III(C).
19 264 Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal [Vol A. The Application of the U.S. Constitution to the Territories Is Perplexing and Unclear U.S. territories are classified by the concepts of incorporated or unincorporated and organized or unorganized. 138 An organized territory is one where the civil government has been established under an organic act passed by Congress. 139 Congressional approval is required for any changes to an organic act or territorial constitution. 140 The concepts of unincorporated and incorporated were introduced in a line of cases collectively known as the Insular Cases. 141 A territory with an unincorporated status implies that not all provisions of the U.S. Constitution apply to that territory, while one with an incorporated status is one in which the full force of the Constitution applies. 142 All four U.S. territories, except American Samoa, are considered unincorporated and organized territories, with CNMI and Puerto Rico having Commonwealth status. 143 American Samoa s status is that of an unorganized and unincorporated territory. 144 It is unorganized because the American Samoan government is not operating under an organic act enacted by the United States Congress. 145 It is unincorporated because no Congressional action has been taken to incorporate American Samoa into the United States, and not all provisions of the U.S. Constitution are applicable to the 138 Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, at Id. at 450. An Organic Act essentially establishes a territorial constitution. Id. 140 Id. at 459: Congress retains, however, the power to amend or abrogate the laws of the territorial legislature. Such power has been described as an incident of sovereignty, which continues until granted away, so that Congress failure to reserve expressly in an organic act the power to amend or abrogate territorial legislation does not prevent it from exercising such power. Id. 141 Id. at 449; see e.g., Delima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901); Dooley v. U.S., 182 U.S. 222 (1901); Armstrong v. U.S., 182 U.S. 243 (1901); Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901) (stating: The full effect of the Insular Cases was thus to declare that (1) Congress has general and plenary power over the territories (which it can delegate to executive agencies), but that (2) these powers are limited by certain fundamental rights of the territorial inhabitants. Id. 142 Id. A territory usually becomes incorporated only if it is destined to become a state. Id. at See generally Van Dyke, Flag-Islands, supra note 55, (discussing the relationships between the U.S. and its territories). 144 Id. at Id.
20 2009] Tua 265 territory. 146 In the past and recently, commissions 147 were organized by the American Samoa government to examine the territory s political status. The most recent one did not seek any changes to American Samoa s political status but recommended that American Samoa continue to be a part of the United States with freedom to preserve the Samoan culture. 148 But it still remains questionable whether the current political status of American Samoa is sufficient to protect the native rights and customs of Samoans in the long run. 149 When applying the U.S. Constitution to an unincorporated territory, the 1901 case of Downes v. Bidwell 150 set the fundamental rights standard. 151 In that case, Justice White stated that all Constitutional provisions apply to incorporated territories but not all apply to unincorporated territories. 152 White also invited judges to invoke a natural rights philosophy. 153 Consequently, the result is a categorical analysis - if a right is non-fundamental to one unincorporated territory, it will be deemed non-fundamental with respect to all other unincorporated territories. 154 In 1922, the Court more clearly adopted this test in Balzac v. Porto Rico See The Future Political Status Study Commission of American Samoa, at 15 (Jan. 2, 2007), [hereinafter FPSCC]. 147 Id. at 10: Recent Future Political Status Commission consisted of five legislators, two attorneys, a district governor (prior elected lieutenant governor of American Samoa), one associate judge, two businessman, four veterans, one college educator (PhD in Samoan Studies), and a Registered Nurse. Id. 148 Id. at Uilisone Falemanu Tua, Moving Forward (letter to the editor), available at ewssection=custom3 (last visited Apr. 25, 2009) U.S. 1 (1901). 151 Robert A. Katz, The Jurisprudence of legitimacy: Applying the Constitution to U.S. Territories, 59 U. CHI. L. REV. 779, 781 (1992) [hereinafter Katz, Jurisprudence]. 152 Id. 153 Id. at 782. Arguing that White employed natural law methodology to identify which provisions are fundamental. Id. 154 Id. at 782 n.19. It is... clearly settled that [the Constitution s provisions for jury trial] do not apply to [a] territory... which has not been incorporated into the Union. Id. 155 Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922) (holding that Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial is not applicable to unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico); see also U.S. v. Vergudo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, (1990) (holding that protection against unreasonable searches and seizures did not extend to aliens outside the U.S). In Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904)], we declared the general
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