Washington International Law Journal


The United States Territory of American Samoa is over 7000 miles from Washington, D.C., and that distance might explain the United States’ limited interest in the territory. The lack of interest has allowed American Samoa to maintain its unique cultural foundations. However, it has also kept American Samoa detached from the federal governmental structure, including the judicial system. In fact, a federal district court does not exist in American Samoa, nor has the territory been incorporated into a federal judicial district. A lack of a federal presence has not been a major issue until recently. In the last few years, the U.S. government has begun to prosecute American Samoan residents for violations of federal law. Without a federal jurisdictional presence, these prosecutions have taken place off-island impacting the constitutional rights of American Samoa residents. These renditions have increased calls for the creation of a federal district court in American Samoa. While a greater federal presence would be helpful, the creation of a district court is unnecessary. A better solution would be to increase the current jurisdiction of the local territorial judiciary to incorporate greater federal jurisdiction.

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