Ads by Google Ads by Google

Citizenship of Am Samoans should be decided by Am Samoans

Michael F. Williams, of the Washington D.C lawfirm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Attny states it “would be great” if plaintiffs “become part of the solution”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The latest decision by the U.S Tenth Circuit of Appeals denying a petition for “rehearing en banc” by three American Samoans residing in Utah, who are plaintiffs in the citizenship case, is “another victory” for the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata — the intervenors in the federal case.

This is according to Michael F. Williams, of the Washington D.C lawfirm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, representing ASG and the Congresswoman, responding to Samoa News inquires from last week.

The defendants in the case include the U.S State Department and its officials and there has been no official reaction or statement from the federal government on the appeals court’s latest order.

A Dec. 27 order released by the Clerk of the Tenth Circuit of Appeals denied the petition by plaintiffs requesting a “rehearing en banc” or the full-panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision made in June of this year by the three-judge panel of the same appeals court, where the majority ruled that citizenship birth on U.S. soil is not applicable to those born in American Samoa.

Responding to the Samoa News request for comments and reaction, Williams said yesterday that the Tenth Circuit’s decision “is another victory” for ASG and the Congresswoman, pointing out that the “plaintiffs lost the case on appeal, and they were asking the entire Court of Appeals for a chance to reverse their loss.”

“A majority of the judges on the Tenth Circuit declined to rehear their arguments, which means that the win for the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Uifa’atali will stay in place,” he said.

According to the Dec. 27 Tenth Circuit order, the Petition and responses were transmitted to all non-recused judges of the court who are in regular active service. Additionally, a poll was called and did not carry.  In accordance with federal appellate court rules, the order said that en banc consideration requires the approval of a majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified.

“Accordingly, the petition is denied,” the order said, and noted that Circuit Judge Robert E. Bacharach, and Circuit Court Judge Nancy L. Moritz “would grant rehearing en banc.” And a separate written dissent from Judge Bacharach from the denial of rehearing en banc, was also released by the court. (See Samoa News editions Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 for details.)

Williams told Samoa News that at “this point, very nearly every judge to hear these arguments has recognized that the status of American Samoans should be decided by American Samoans — not federal judges in Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, Utah, or anywhere else for that matter.”

 “The small minority of judges who disagreed have done so only by ignoring the important issues of self-determination in this case. Simply put: American Samoans, collectively and as individuals, should be allowed to determine their status according to their own deliberative processes, on their own timeframes, in a manner that is respectful of Fa’a Samoa.  The United States owes the people of American Samoa that much, at least,” he points out.

As to options to plaintiffs, Williams responded that the “only options available to the plaintiffs are seeking review from the U.S Supreme Court or trying to find another judge somewhere who might be willing to hear some variation on this lawsuit.”

“The more prudent course would be for the plaintiffs and their supporters to recognize how valuable it is for American Samoans to have a voice in their status,” he declared.

“The Congresswoman and the American Samoa Government should be applauded for their efforts in easing the burdens that have been placed upon American Samoans and in standing up for self-determination.  It would be great if the plaintiffs in these lawsuits would get on board and become part of the solution too,” he said.

Williams noted a similar citizenship lawsuit case — which was heard and rejected by the federal court in Washington D.C. — by other American Samoans where the Supreme Court declined to review the lower court’s ruling as well as an appeals court decision siding with US State Department, and intervenors, which included ASG and the Congresswoman.