Citizenship plaintiffs oppose intervention by ASG, Eni
The five American Samoans and the California-based Samoan organization who are plaintiffs in the citizenship lawsuit which is now before the federal appeal’s court in Washington D.C. are strongly opposing a motion by the American Samoa Government and Congressman Faleomavaega to intervene in the appeal process.
The Movants’ — ASG and Faleomavaega — filed a motion earlier this month seeking to intervene or in the alternative to participate as amici curiae — ‘friends of the court’ — in the appeal phase of this case.
ASG and Faleomavaega argued, among other things, they have “distinct and exceptionally important interests at stake in this appeal, which seeks to disrupt settled principles of constitutional interpretation and, if successful, would have a significant impact on the entire people of American Samoa.”
However, the plaintiffs-appellants responded through their 12-page motion saying they do not oppose the movants' participation as amici curiae, but they are opposed to any intervention in the appeal process.
Citing provisions of a federal court decision, the plaintiffs-appellants pointed out that the D.C. appeals court allows intervention “at the appellate stage where none was sought in the district court, only in an exceptional case for imperative reasons”.
They argued the Movants failed to address whether intervention was sought in the District Court, adding that Faleomavaega never sought to intervene in the lower court.
Although the ASG did technically move to intervene in the lower court, it waited to file that motion until nearly a year after the case had been filed and over six months after briefing on the U.S. Government’s dispositive motion had closed, they argued.
ASG’s motion to intervene was denied as moot when the lower court ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, the plaintiffs-appellants said, adding that ASG could have appealed its motion to intervene but did not do so.
According to the motion, this is not the “exceptional case” where intervention should be granted in the first instance on appeal, and Movants have not presented “imperative reasons” supporting such relief.
Furthermore, this case presents a constitutional challenge to only a single federal statute and to defendants-appellees’ reliance on that statute in effecting certain U.S. State Department passport policies and procedures.
“Importantly, no statute, regulation, or judicial decision of the American Samoa Government has been challenged or drawn into question in this case,” the motion says, adding the issue on appeal is discrete: whether the lower court erred in dismissing plaintiffs-appellants’ complaint at the pleadings stage.
The motion also says defendants-appellees (which is the U.S. State Department and the federal government) have already indicated their intent to file a motion for summary affirmance of the District Court’s decision, a step that hardly signals any lack of resolve on the part of the federal government.
According to the motion, the Movants argue that a ruling by the appeals court on whether the Citizenship Clause applies to persons born in American Samoa “would impede the historical ability of the American Samoa Government to negotiate with the federal government about the naturalization status of American Samoans and the ability of Congressman Faleomavaega to represent the Samoan people on this important issue before Congress.”
“However, Movants cited no precedent of this Court or any other that a legislator’s or government’s abstract opposition to its citizens’ assertion of an individual federal constitutional right justifies intervention in proceedings brought by those individuals to vindicate those rights,” the plaintiffs-appellants argued.
“To be sure, any time a court enforces an individual constitutional right, the effect is to remove that issue from the political arena and make it non-negotiable,” the motion said, adding the desire of politicians to maintain their own sphere of bargaining and negotiation over such issues does not support intervention in a proceeding brought by individuals to vindicate their own constitutional rights.
The Movants quickly responded within days of the plaintiffs-appellants motion, saying the arguments failed on all levels. It also claims the defendant-appellants (represented by the U.S. Justice Department) do not object to intervention by the Movants.
“Whether and how the disposition of this case will affect the fa’a Samoa is a concern properly not within the purview of the Department of Justice, but squarely within the purview of the government and elected officials of the people of American Samoa,” it says and reiterated it's request to intervene or to participate as amici curiae.
There are no court records on whether or not the appeals court will hear oral arguments on the Movants’ motion.