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Second lawsuit against Gov and ASG over COVID-19 emergency declarations

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A second $4 million lawsuit was filed Monday with the Trial Division of the High Court against Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and the American Samoa Government in connection with the governor’s four COVID-19 emergency declarations since March.

The new claim is brought by local resident and US citizen, who is originally from New York, Steven Jay Pincus Hueter, who accused the defendants “of willfully, knowingly, intentionally violating his civil and constitutional rights with wanton, reckless and callous disregard of the Plaintiff’s civil and constitutional rights” guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the United States and provisions of the Constitution of America Samoa.

Hueter’s allegations against the defendants are similar to those made by local resident, Bryan Jackson, also a US citizen, who filed the first lawsuit two weeks ago over the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declarations.

There “simply is no emergency or danger related to [COVID-19] within the borders of... American Samoa, and therefore there simply is no basis in law for restricting, or otherwise violating the rights of the Plaintiff as stated and guaranteed in the Constitution of American Samoa and as stated and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States Of America, while the Plaintiff is within the borders... of American Samoa,” Hueter’s lawsuit alleges.

It also alleges that no “emergency exists” within American Samoa, which has no confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the 60-page complaint.

Through the COVID-19 declarations, the lawsuit further alleges that “defendants knowingly, willfully and intentionally violated the Plaintiff’s civil and constitutional rights of — right to free exercise of his religious beliefs; rights to assemble peacefully and peaceably with other individuals; and rights to peacefully and peaceably assemble and congregate with any number of people freely.”

The lawsuit also states that the plaintiff is prepared to engage in mediation and alternative dispute resolution with the defendants, for the peaceful settlement of all controversy — based on the restoration of the civil and constitutional rights of the plaintiff — for the plaintiff and on behalf of all citizens and individuals within the borders of American Samoa.

Plaintiff is asking the court to — among other things — issue a temporary restraining order and a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting defendants from violating or denying the plaintiff his civil and constitutional rights.

Plaintiff is seeking $4 million of exemplary or punitive damages, $1 (one-dollar) of nominal damages and all other costs the court deems necessary.

Hueter, who is representing himself in the case, shared a copy of his lawsuit with Samoa News after it was filed in court and later served on the defendants on Monday.