ASG and Congresswoman say they have a direct interest in US citizenship case
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata are maintaining that as the Territory’s elected representatives, they “are best situated to represent the American Samoan interest in self-determination” and “have a direct interest” in the US citizenship lawsuit, according to the legal team, representing the Movants — ASG and Congresswoman — in the latest court filings.
ASG and the Congresswoman on June 8 ask 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 Movants’ motion to intervene, citing four-detailed specific arguments including that the motion was “procedurally defective.”
In a 12-page response filed July 6, the Movants — through their attorneys — responded to the four arguments.
The Movants contend that it has standing to intervene in this litigation and that its motion to intervene is not procedurally defective. (See Samoa News edition July 9 for details for these two arguments.)
Samoa News reports today on Movants’ response to the other two arguments by plaintiffs.
ARTICLE III STANDING
Plaintiffs contend that ASG and the Congresswoman must “establish Article III standing” to intervene, but the Movants said this claim “is incorrect”, and responding to Samoa News inquiries, attorney Michael F. Williams with the Washington D.C. law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, one of the two law firms representing the Movants, gave additional information on what is “Article III standing”.
Williams explained that under the U.S. Constitution, federal courts are only able to consider cases involving parties who have a sufficient connection to the legal question the courts must resolve.
He said the plaintiffs are alleging that ASG and the Congresswoman have an insufficient connection to the issues in this litigation to support their full participation in the lawsuit.
Instead, the plaintiffs claim that the Court should consider ASG and the Congresswoman as "amicus curiae" or “friends of the court” who are permitted to file a brief, but not necessarily to participate in the case on the same basis as the parties themselves.
“The American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Amata have pointed out that they have a direct interest, as lawfully-elected representatives of the people of American Samoa, in legal questions that may affect the status of American Samoans,” Williams said.
In court filings, Movants argue that they “do not seek any additional relief or otherwise go beyond the existing legal claims” in their motion to intervene.
MOVANTS UNIQUE INTEREST
Movants also dismiss arguments by plaintiffs that ASG and the Congresswoman have no right to intervene under federal court rules because the U.S. defendants adequately represent their interests.
“Plaintiffs’ arguments miss the mark for at least three reasons,” was the Movants response, noting that in the first argument, plaintiffs claim that this Court should presume that the U.S. defendants adequately represent the interests of ASG and the Congresswoman because their objectives are “identical” and “the [federal] government is a party pursuing a single objective.”
“But the United States and the U.S. defendants have a duty to serve the interests of the general public, the continental United States, and all incorporated and unincorporated U.S. territories,” the Movants point out.
Because the U.S. defendants are “obligated to consider a broad spectrum of views, many of which may conflict with the particular interest of the would-be intervenor[s],” there is an obvious “potential conflict” between the interests of ASG and the Congresswoman, which satisfies “the minimal burden of showing that their interests may not be adequately represented by the existing parties,” the Movants argue.
Secondly, ASG and the Congresswoman, “as the Territory’s only democratically elected representatives, are best situated to represent the American Samoan interest in self-determination.”
The Movants claim that the “U.S. defendants have expressed no particular interest in protecting American Samoa’s ongoing interest in self-determination,” which may conflict with the current role of the United States as “the ‘exclusive sovereign over . . . American Samoa’.”
According to the Movants, the plaintiffs have also claimed that ASG and the Congresswoman have asserted that the U.S. defendants have no particular interest in protecting the traditional way of life in American Samoa or preserving the fa’a Samoa, and is not enough to demonstrate that existing parties do not adequately represent the movants’ interests in this litigation.
However, the Movants disagree, arguing that the only way to guarantee that ASG and the Congresswoman’s “interests will be adequately represented is to grant their motion to intervene.”
In conclusion the Movants argue that American Samoa’s democratically elected representatives have direct and substantial interests at stake that are not adequately represented by existing parties.
“The Court should permit them to intervene, whether as of right or as a matter of this Court’s discretion,” they said.