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Haleck family and Interior Dept attorneys to meet next week over land case

Attorneys representing the Interior Department and the Haleck family are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the family’s law suit filed in April this year at the federal court in Washington D.C over its long legal battle with the American Samoa Government for the development of 23 acres of Naumati property located in the Ottoville Low Rain Forest.

The lawsuit, filed Apr. 5, 2012, names Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar as defendant both in his official capacity and as an individual. He is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Lo, with the U.S. Justice Department Civil Division.

In a motion filed yesterday in federal court, Lo requested an extension of time to respond to the complaint which was served on the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Apr. 10 making June 11 the response date.

A footnote in the motion says that plaintiffs have sued the Secretary of the Interior in his official and individual capacities, but have not yet filed proof of service indicating when service was effectuated on the Secretary for purposes of the individual-capacity suit. The response to the individual-capacity claim is due 60 days after the Secretary or the U.S. Attorney’s Office have been served, whichever is later.

According to the motion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has engaged in multiple discussions with DOI regarding this case, and is seeking the extension of time “in order to analyze more thoroughly the issues raised by the plaintiffs and prepare a response to the complaint.”

Additionally, the parties are scheduled to meet to discuss this case in the upcoming week of June 11, and thus in the interest of conserving the government’s resources, the defendant seeks this extension of time so that the parties may have an opportunity to engage in discussions without the need for active litigation at the same time.

The defense is seeking a deadline of July 11 to file a response.

Plaintiffs in the case filed Apr. 5 and demanding a jury trial, are Cathie Haleck-Paala; David Otto Haleck; Ernest Haleck; and Otto Vince Haleck, Jr.  Plaintiffs are represented by the Washington D.C. based law-firm Williams & Connolly LLP.

The suit comes after years of the family trying to develop its 23.25 acres of land (labeled in the complaint as the Naumati 23 acres) in the Ottoville Lowland Forest. The local government has denied land use permit requests several times, although ASG did offer several years ago to purchase the land parcel from the Haleck family.

According to the complaint, the Halecks brought this action to the federal court, challenging the Interior Secretary's decision to approve the taking of the Halecks’ real property by the ASG and/or the High Court without just compensation, and of the Secretary’s decision to deny the Halecks due process of law and equal protection.

The plaintiffs petitioned the federal court for an order and judgment mandating that the Interior Secretary direct ASG to either purchase the Naumati acerage and justly compensate the plaintiffs, or issue development permits to plaintiffs for the property.