ASG and Amata argue they “should thus be allowed to intervene”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “American Samoa’s democratically elected representatives have direct and substantial interests at stake that are not adequately represented by existing parties” in the US citizenship lawsuit before the federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to the legal team, representing the Movants — the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata — in the latest court filings.
The Movant also disagree with claims by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the ASG and the Congresswoman’s request to intervene in the lawsuit should be dismissed, because the motion is “procedurally defective.”
“It is truly remarkable — and very telling — that the plaintiffs... are trying to use procedural arguments to prevent the lawfully elected representatives of the people of American Samoa from participating fully in their lawsuit,” according to a statement to Samoa News over the weekend from the Washington D.C. based law firm of KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, which — along with the Utah based Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Brednar PLLC law firm — represents the Movants.
ASG and the Congresswoman “strongly believe that any change in the status of the people of American Samoa must respect the choices of individual Samoans and the self-determination and sovereignty of the American Samoan people,” the statement said.
Additionally, the U.S Appeals Court for the District of Columbia “has already recognized that principle, and the Supreme Court of the United States chose to leave that ruling in place.”
ASG and the Congresswoman hope that the US District Court Judge Waddoups, who is presiding over this litigation “will reject plaintiffs’ arguments”, according to the statement hours after the Movants’ legal team filed its latest arguments on Friday, July 6, at the Salt Lake federal court.
ASG and the Congresswoman on June 8 asked the court to be allowed to intervene in the citizenship lawsuit filed in March this year by three American Samoans — John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli and Rosavita Tuli — who argue that because they were born in American Samoa, a US territory, they are entitled to citizenship under the 14th Amendment, the Citizenship clause of the US Constitution.
The plaintiffs, who are all residents of Utah, on June 22 asked the court to deny the motion to intervene, citing four-detailed specific arguments including that the motion was “procedurally defective.”
In a 12-page response filed Friday, July 6, the Movants — through their attorneys — contend that the “plaintiffs urge this Court to alter the fundamental status of tens of thousands of American Samoans while excluding the views of their lawful, democratically elected representatives. This position is untenable.”
ASG and the Congresswoman “have direct and substantial interests at stake” in this litigation that “would be substantially affected in a practical sense by the determination made in [this] action,” and they “should thus be allowed to intervene,” attorneys for the Movants argued.
Plaintiffs had suggested — among its four specific detailed arguments — that the court should deny the Movants motion to intervene “as procedurally defective” because movants “failed to file a pleading with their Motion.”
According to plaintiffs, the Movants, failed to file a pleading with their motion despite being on actual notice of the litigation for months. (See Samoa News edition June 25 for details of the procedurally detective argument by the plaintiffs.)
In its response last Friday, Movants argued that the courts consistently “favor... a permissive interpretation” of federal court rules and consider the requirement satisfied where, for example, the motion to intervene includes “a statement of ‘legal grounds, reasons, and arguments’ contending that intervention was appropriate.”
Additionally, the lack of an additional pleading is particularly inconsequential where, as here, the motion itself provides adequate information to the Court and places the other parties on notice of the claimant’s position, the nature and basis of the claim asserted, and the relief sought by the intervenor, and the movants do not assert any affirmative claims and seek to intervene only to defend against plaintiffs’ claims.
Movants further argued that “plaintiffs’ claims of prejudice-by-delay are inconsistent with Tenth Circuit [Court] law, which indicates that a motion to intervene filed ‘just over two months after’ plaintiffs’ complaint is timely and unlikely to prejudice the existing parties.”
STANDING TO INTERVENE
Movants dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that ASG and the Congresswoman lack standing to intervene.
According to the Movants, the ASG — among other things — has standing in its capacity as “parens patriae” (A Latin phrase which means the power of the state to act as guardian for those who are unable to care for themselves, according to the Legal Institute website).
According to the Movants, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that U.S. territories have parens patriae standing in lawsuits challenging federal law. (The Movants cited a 1982 federal case in which the territory of Puerto Rico has parens patriae standing in a suit involving the federal employment system.)
“Naturalization laws fall squarely within this category,” the Movants said, arguing that through this suit, “plaintiffs seek to circumvent the historical role of the American Samoa Government in negotiating with the United States about the rights of the American Samoan people.”
Plaintiffs had argued that the Congresswoman also has no standing in this case, but the Movant disagrees arguing that the Congresswoman “shares the interest” of ASG “in representing the will of the American Samoan people, and also has personal interests at stake in the action.”
Movants noted that the plaintiffs’ claims that the Congresswoman has “no cognizable right” to guide legislation through the US House of Representatives and maintain that her “desire to advise Congress regarding citizenship for American Samoans is too amorphous to support a right to intervene.”
However, “plaintiffs ignore the fact” that the Congresswoman “has already introduced a still-pending bill relating to American Samoan citizenship,” the Movants argued. “And plaintiffs do not address Congresswoman Amata’s personal interests as an American Samoan, which further support her standing.”
Samoa News will report later this week on the Movants response to the last two-pointed arguments by plaintiffs to deny ASG and the Congresswoman’s motion to intervene.