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Con-Con Day 4: Impeachment amendment approved for removal of Governor and Lt. Governor

New delegates (standing)
Clause including the Justices and Judges removed as it was deemed “too early”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The impeachment amendment also known as the accountability amendment, which adds a clause under the Constitution to allow for the impeachment of the Governor, Lt Governor, Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges was approved with changes during Wednesday’s Constitutional Convention.

This is one of the eight proposed amendments currently being debated by delegates of the Convention for approval or rejection. The approved amendments will be included on the ballot during the midterm election in November.

Attorney General, Fainu’ulelei Alailima Utu said this proposed amendment is in line with the American Samoa Code Annotated impeachment section 4.0109.

He said under the law the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are subject to impeachment and, upon conviction, shall be removed

“And that the Legislature shall provide for the manner, procedure, and causes for impeachment including for conviction of felonies and for a course of conduct amounting to a gross abuse of power, as defined by law.

 “The House of Representatives has the sole power to bring articles of impeachment upon a vote of at least 2/3 of the entire membership. The Senate has the sole power to try impeachment, with the Chief Justice presiding.

“However in a subsection it reads —  the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner — this section or its substance should be considered as a Constitutional Amendment to the Revised Constitution of American Samoa,” said the AG.

He said that at the time the impeachment law was passed in 1977, there was hope that in the future this amendment would be included in the Constitution, and assumes this is why the Constitutional Review Committee opted to submit this proposal.

“However it’s apparent there are additional changes, which now include Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges of the District Court.”

The Attorney General also pointed out, with the inclusion of leaders of the Judiciary in the impeachment amendment should also include someone that can preside at the hearings against the Judges before the Senate.

Tualauta faipule Larry Sanitoa took the floor noting that under current laws, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices are appointed by the Department of Interior, yet the proposed amendment gives authority to impeach the Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges of the District Court.

Former Governor, Sen. Togiola Tulafono suggested to allowing the impeachment of the Governor and Lt Governor in the constitution, but remove the impeachment of Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges of the District Court, because it is too early to make such decisions — referring to proposed amendments regarding the appointment of the Chief Justice by the governor instead of the Department of Interior, which is the current process.

According to the Constitutional Review Committee report, this amendment revises Article III Section 3 of the Revised Constitution to remove the authority of the U.S. Secretary of Interior to appoint the Chief Justice of American Samoa and any Associate Justices. This decision would be left to the governor of American Samoa subject to confirmation by the Fono.

Togiola said until this amendment is settled only then should the impeachment of the Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges of the District Court be reconsidered — but for now, it is too early to make such a decision.

He then motioned to remove this clause, which includes Chief Justice, Associate Justice and Judges of the District Court, which was seconded and approved.