U.S. Supreme Court To Decide Whether To Take Citizenship Case On June 9

American Samoa plaintiffs asking court to overturn lower court ruling

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 1, 2016) – The Supreme Court of the United States will conference privately next week to determine whether or not to accept a petition of ‘writ of certiorari’ from five American Samoans, who are plaintiffs in the US citizenship case, in which defendants include the US State Department and the Secretary of State.
 
The plaintiffs, who include a California based Samoan organization led by local resident Leneuoti Tuaua, have urged the Supreme Court to grant their petition because the case “undisputedly presents a constitutional question of tremendous importance.”
 
However, the State Department along with intervenors — the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Aumua Amata — have argued against granting the petition, saying that the lower court ruling (which was upheld by the appeals court) correctly stated that only the US Congress has authority to grant citizenship to outlying territories such as American Samoa.
 
According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to grant the petition for certiorari by the end of June.
 
Since all parties involved have already filed their briefs, the Supreme Court online records shows that a “conference” is set for June 9, but there were no other details available.
 
Asked for an explanation regarding the “conference”, attorney Michael Williams, representing ASG and the Congresswoman, said the Supreme Court “will consider at its private conference” on June 9, whether it will grant plaintiffs’ petition for a writ of certiorari, and consider the case on its merits.
 
“In other words, this is the decision about whether to take the case at all. If the Court decides not to take the case, then the Court of Appeals’ decision will stand,” Williams said yesterday via email from Washington D.C. “If the Court decides to take the case, then it will call for another round of briefing and arguments.”
 
“It takes four justices to grant certiorari or accept the case,” he said, adding “we will learn the results of this private conference on June 13.”
 
Williams is an attorney with the Washington D.C. based law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and when the case was in lower court — the federal district court in D.C. — then Congressman Faleomavaega Eni and ASG joined as friends of the court supporting the State Department’s call to dismiss the lawsuit.
 
At the time, Faleomavaega said he and ASG were represented by Kirkland & Ellis “pro bono” or free of charge. Samoa News mentioned the “pro bono” aspect in a couple of stories, during the early stages of the case in lower court.
 
In the past few days, several commenters on Samoa News stories regarding this lawsuit have raised the question of how much ASG and the Congresswoman are paying the law-firm to represent them. A couple of commenters have claimed that no attorney or law-firm will provide services for free on such a major case before the Supreme Court.
 
At least three off island readers accused Samoa News — in their email messages — of not mentioning in the stories how much ASG and the Congresswoman are paying to represent  American Samoa in the birthright citizenship case.
 
“Kirkland & Ellis LLP has represented and continues to represent the American Samoa Government and Congresswoman Amata on a pro bono basis in this case,” said Williams, responding to Samoa News questions.
 
“We recognize that this is an issue of tremendous importance to the people of American Samoa, and we are proud to have the opportunity to stand in court on behalf of their elected leaders in this case.”
 
See Samoa News editions May 12, May 18, May 19 and May 25 as well as Samoa News online May 28, for the latest stories pertaining to the citizenship case before the Supreme Court.

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Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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Comments

Until late in the 19th Century, all non-slave residents of newly acquired US territories were incorporated as full citizens of the United States. This was the path to citizenship taken by many of my ancestors in Illinois and Missouri Territories. As the 19th Century was ending, Congress, seeing that future territories were unlikely to have a white majority, created a category called "national". That category (national) is not mentioned in our Constitution. This ambiguous, extra-constitutional category has been applied to territories with a majority non-white population and with economies not easily manipulated, including the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Somehow, I don't think our Founding Fathers envisioned a nation comprised only of Anglo-Saxons, or even of Caucasians... But I do not think SCOTUS will support this thinking.

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