Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has sent Governor Togiola, Lieutenant Governor Sunia the President of the Senate and Senators, the Speaker of the House and Representatives, and the Attorney General a draft of proposed legislation to establish a district court in American Samoa.
In a letter dated May 26, 2005, the Congressman wrote:
Dear Governor Togiola:
I met recently with our Fono to discuss the establishment of a federal district court in American Samoa. During these discussions, the Fono requested that I develop a draft of the proposed federal legislation to assist in guiding our efforts. I am enclosing a draft of this proposed legislation for your review. Also included separately is a brief summary of the provisions contained in this draft of the bill.
I look forward to working with you to shape this important legislation. Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
Member of Congress
The Honorable Ipulasi Aitofele Sunia, Lieutenant Governor
The Honorable Lolo Moliga, President of the Senate and Senators
The Honorable Matagi McMoore, Speaker of the House and Representatives
The Honorable Sialega Togafau, Attorney General
The Congressman also enclosed a summary of the bill which is included below.
Federal District Court of American Samoa
Summary of Bill Provisions
This bill proposes to create the Federal District Court of American Samoa pursuant to Article IV, Clause 3, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which states as follows:
“The 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.”
Section 2(a) of the bill establishes the court on Tutuila and provides that sessions of the court may be called at other locations in American Samoa as necessary.
Section 2(b) delineates the jurisdiction of the federal district court, limiting jurisdiction to that of a district court of the United States to the extent that the Constitution and laws of the United States apply to American Samoa. The proposed court would also have jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. The court is specifically not allowed to address issues involving communal land tenure or the adjudication of traditional chieftain or matai titles.
The federal district court would have concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court over cases interpreting the Deeds of Cession and the 1967 Revised Constitution of American Samoa.
Section 2(c) provides that the relations between the High Court and the federal district court would be the same as between States and the Federal Courts.
Section 3(a) authorizes the President to appoint a judge for the federal district court for a term of 10 years.
Section 3(b) authorizes the Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit to assign justices of the Ninth Circuit or District Court in Hawaii, or the Chief Justice of the United States to assign any judge, to serve temporarily as a judge in the Federal District Court of American Samoa.
Section 3(c) authorizes the President to appoint a United States Attorney and a US Marshal to the court.
Section 4 applies federal rules of practice and procedure to the Federal District Court of American Samoa. This section includes the AG of American Samoa where applicable for the AG to act as “United States Attorney” or “Attorney for the government” as used in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Section 5 assigns the Federal District Court of American Samoa to the Ninth Circuit. This section also includes technical amendments modifying the United States Code to include American Samoa under provisions related to retirement annuities, magistrate judges, court reporters, courts of appeal, interlocutory decisions and representation of defendants.
Section 6 includes Swains Island and Rose Island within the jurisdiction of the federal court.
“I want to emphasize that this is only a draft and I welcome the Governor’s input and especially the input of the Fono. I look forward to working with our local leaders on this issue and I am hopeful that together we will be able to craft legislation which will be for the benefit of our Territory now and for generations to come,” the Congressman concluded.