Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has informed the Governor and the Fono that he has requested that the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary conduct a hearing on H.R. 4711, a bill he introduced to provide a federal district court for American Samoa. The full text of the Congressman’s letter dated February 9, 2006 to the Honorable James Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is included below:
Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner:
I am writing to request that the Committee on the Judiciary schedule a hearing on H.R. 4711, a bill I introduced to establish a federal district court in American Samoa.
American Samoa is the only U.S. territory with no federal district court. Currently, federal cases originating in American Samoa are tried in the federal districts of Hawaii or Washington, DC, thousands of miles from our district, creating serious constitutional issues regarding the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a trial by a jury of one’s peers.
This far-flung adjudication of American Samoa’s federal cases also creates a heavy financial and emotional burden on defendants in these federal courts who, along with their friends and families, bear thousands of dollars in costs just to attend court and to support the defendants’ efforts. I am earnestly seeking your assistance in remedying this injustice.
In my opinion, establishing a federal district court in American Samoa is essential to resolving the constitutional and jurisdictional uncertainties that have arisen in our Territory. By establishing a federal court in American Samoa, the process of prosecuting federal crimes will be simplified, the financial and emotional burden of defending a federal court case will be eased, appeals of convictions based on a lack of federal jurisdiction will be more difficult, and justice will be served in American Samoa on a timelier basis.
For these reasons, I respectfully request that the House Committee on the Judiciary conduct a hearing on H.R. 4711.
Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.
“At the Fono’s request, I developed a draft of this legislation last year and submitted it to our local leaders for their input,” Faleomavaega said. “If the Judiciary Committee grants this hearing request, our Governor and our legislative leaders will have the opportunity to provide testimony that will shape this legislation so that it gives us a much-needed federal court presence here in American Samoa while protecting our culture and values.”
“Again, I encourage the public to participate in this process by writing to my office to share your views on this subject. Copies of the bill are available in my office to assist anyone who would like to provide input,” Faleomavaega concluded.