Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he met with the GAO team prior to their departure to American Samoa to conduct a review of the judicial system. The General Accountability Office (GAO) is conducting the study at the request of Congressman Faleomavaega.
“On July 19, 2006, Chairman Pombo and Ranking Member Nick Rahall of the House Committee on Resources joined with me in signing a letter requesting that the GAO conduct a comprehensive review of the current judiciary system in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said. “As a follow-up to that letter, the GAO assembled a team which has already done preliminary work.”
“So far, the GAO has met with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and Office of Inspector General. GAO has also met with Administrative Office of the US Courts at headquarters, the Executive Office of the 9th Circuit, the District of Hawaii, and the Federal Judicial Center.”
“At the Department of Justice, the GAO has conducted meetings with the Civil Rights Sections, Public Integrity Section, Fraud Section, FBI, US Attorneys Office, US Marshals Service, and the Federal Public Defender.”
“GAO has also met with the General Services Administration, and Inspector General Offices from various federal agencies including the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, IRS, USDA, HHS, and Transportation.”
“The GAO team will now come to American Samoa and will arrive on the Sunday October 14, 2007 flight and depart on October 21, 2007. While in American Samoa, the GAO intends to conduct meetings with Governor Togiola, Members of the Fono including the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, the High Court and District Court, Attorney General, Public Defender, Department of Public Safety, the American Bar Association, the Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement, the Treasurer and Comptroller, Office of Samoan Affairs, Territorial Audit Office, Chamber of Commerce, and Common Cause.”
“The GAO will also be establishing an email address for members of the public and any other parties that may want to write in and share their concerns, observations, and suggestions,” Faleomavaega said. “The GAO will announce the email address while in American Samoa next week.”
“At this time, I want to thank Mr. William O. Jenkins, Jr., Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues of the General Accountability Office; Christopher Conrad, Assistant Director; Nancy Kawahara, Analyst-in-Charge; Jared Hermalin, Senior Analyst; Amy Sheller, Analyst; and Tracey King, General Counsel, for the work they are doing to move this study forward. It was my pleasure to meet with Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Hermalin, and Ms. King in my office today and I am also pleased that Mr. Conrad, Ms. Kawahara, and Ms. Sheller were able to participate in our discussions via teleconference.”
“The GAO’s work will assist Congress in ensuring that our judiciary system can properly serve the needs of the people of American Samoa. The GAO’s review will examine the feasibility of: a) designating the High Court of American Samoa to hear federal cases; b) establishing an Article I district court in American Samoa; and/or c) expanding the US District Court of Hawaii to include a Division of American Samoa. Under each scenario, the GAO will examine how to best structure a court that would not take jurisdiction over American Samoa’s communal land tenure and matai title cases.”
“I look forward to the GAO findings and remain committed to working with our local leaders to develop a plan based on those findings that will best serve the future needs of our people,” Faleomavaega concluded.