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Preliminary injunctions against COVID-19 declarations denied

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Trial Division of the High Court has denied separate applications by Bryan Jackson and Steven Jay Pincus Hueter for a preliminary injunction, enjoining the the governor and ASG from enforcing certain provisions of the COVID-19 declarations.

Jackson was the first to file his complaint, challenging the defendants’ COVID-19 declarations, alleging four counts of violation of his civil and Constitutional rights with respect to his First Amendment freedoms of religion and assembly. Hueter later filed his complaint, which made similar allegations.

The court heard oral arguments on July 10th. On Thursday, July 30th, the court issued its decision denying the preliminary injunction applications saying that while the emergency declarations’ restrictions on public gatherings appear to curtail plaintiffs’ individual freedom to be physically present at a religious service or public gathering, “protecting a living community from preventable death is undoubtedly a compelling government interest.”

“Any infringement of plaintiffs’ freedoms pales when compared to the threat COVID-19 poses to the Territory’s residents,” according to the judges, who point out that in the context of the pandemic, the people’s safety and health is properly left to those “politically accountable officials” to safeguard and not the courts by way of provisional injunctive relief.

“With the rapidly evolving situation on the mainland, we are not persuaded that plaintiffs have shown ‘substantial likelihood of success’ on the merits,” the judges said.

See Monday’s edition for details.