Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written to Congresswoman Donna Christensen, Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, to request an oversight hearing on the GAO report on American Samoa’s judicial system. The complete text of the letter is included below.
Dear Chairwoman Christensen:
On June 27, 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing the findings of its study on American Samoa’s judiciary system. The report titled American Samoa: Issues Associated with Potential Changes to the Current System for Adjudicating Matters of Federal Law was in response to a request I submitted in 2006, joined by Chairman Rahall and former Chairman Richard Pombo of the Natural Resources Committee, asking GAO for an assessment of the judicial system in American Samoa.
For your information, this is the first time in 108 years that the GAO has even conducted a comprehensive review of the American Samoa’s court system, and the study revealed many issues that both Congress and the people and leaders of the territory need to address.
After reviewing the report, along with numerous discussions with GAO officials, I have informed GAO officials that the study did not offer specific recommendations on what Congress and the local government needed to address. It appears also that the study did not provide a complete analysis of costs and benefits associated with the possible presence of a federal district court for American Samoa.
Another critical area missing in the report is a comparative cost analysis of the judiciary systems as they are now implemented among the other U.S. territories, especially the question of control and administration of federal courts in Guam, CNMI, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Unlike other U.S. territories, Congress has yet to establish an organic act to provide for a government for the islands of Tutuila, Manu’a (Ofu, Olosega, Ta’u), Aunu’u and Swains Island (Olohenga). Instead, Congress in 1929, simply enacted a law not only to ratify the two treaties of cessions (Tutuila Treaty of 1900, and the Manu’a Treaty of 1904), but also delegated all military, judicial, and administrative authority to the President or his assignee (currently the Secretary of the Interior), to administer these islands.