Hueter v. Kruse, Civ. 21-00226 JMS-KJM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
Writing for the CourtJ. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PartiesSTEVEN JAY PINCUS HUETER, AKA TAO, ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. LEALAIALOA FRITZ MICHAEL KRUSE, ET AL., Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. 21-00226 JMS-KJM
Decision Date20 October 2021

STEVEN JAY PINCUS HUETER, AKA TAO, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.

LEALAIALOA FRITZ MICHAEL KRUSE, ET AL., Defendants.

Civ. No. 21-00226 JMS-KJM

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 20, 2021


ORDER REQUIRING FURTHER SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING

ORDER REQUIRING FURTHER SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING

J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

In this case, pro se Plaintiffs Steven Jay Pincus Hueter, Faamuli Pete Faamuli, and Michael “Candyman” Kirk (“Plaintiffs”) bring-among other claims-a 42 U.S.C § 1983 cause of action alleging that Lealaialoa Fritz Michael Kruse, the Chief Justice of the High Court of American Samoa, violated their right to due process. ECF No. 14. On June 30, 2021, the United States entered an appearance on behalf Justice Kruse. ECF No. 55. And on July 16, 2021, the United States filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 85, arguing, among other things, that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over Justice Kruse under Hawaii's long-arm statute, Hawaii Revised Statutes § 634-35, ECF No. 85-1 at PageID ## 1095-

1

96. Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss on August 8, 2021. ECF No. 127.

In these filings, neither Plaintiffs nor the United States addressed the possibility of nationwide jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2). Thus, on September 9, 2021, the court issued an Order requesting supplemental briefing on the issue of personal jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2). ECF No. 139. Plaintiffs submitted their Supplemental Brief on September 11, 2021, ECF No. 142, and the United States submitted its Supplemental Brief on September 17, 2021, ECF No. 143. In these supplemental filings, neither party addressed the peculiarities of American Samoa's status as the only United States' territory that is both unincorporated and unorganized. Because this unique status is a critical factor in the Rule 4(k)(2) analysis, the court now orders the parties to submit further supplemental briefing on this topic.

II. AMERICAN SAMOA'S UNIQUE STATUS

American Samoa is unique among U.S. territories. Like the other inhabited territories-Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CNMI”), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands-American Samoa is an “unincorporated” territory, meaning that it is subject to the plenary power of Congress and that, other than certain fundamental rights, the United States Constitution does not apply of its own force there. See Downes v. Bidwell, 182

2

U.S. 244, 279 (1901).[1] Instead, it is left to Congress to determine which provisions of the United States Constitution apply in the territories. Id.

But Guam, CNMI, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands-unlike American Samoa-are “organized” territories, meaning that Congress has enacted legislation that establishes and delegates certain authority to civilian governments in each of these territories. See, e.g., 48 U.S.C. § 1421 (Guam); 48 U.S.C. § 1801 (CNMI); 48 U.S.C. § 1541 (U.S. Virgin Islands); 48 U.S.C. § 731 (Puerto Rico). Through the same legislative acts, Congress has also extended many provisions of the United States Constitution to the organized territories. See, e.g., Davis v. Guam, 2017 WL 930825, at *12 (D. Guam Mar. 8, 2017), aff'd, 932 F.3d 822 (9th Cir. 2019) (citing 48 U.S.C. § 1421b(u)).

In contrast, Congress has never enacted analogous legislation for American Samoa, making American Samoa the only inhabited territory that remains “unorganized.” See Fitisemanu v. United States, 1 F.4th 862, 875 n.15 (10th Cir. 2021). This means that Congress has not created or delegated authority to the territorial government in American Samoa. Instead, “plenary authority” over the territory has been vested in the Secretary of Interior. See Corp. of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Hodel, 830 F.2d 374, 376

3

(D.C. Cir. 1987) (“Hodel II”); Exec. Order. 10264 (vesting the Secretary of Interior with “all civil, judicial, and military powers” of government in American Samoa); see also Fitisemanu, 1 F.4th at 875 n.15 (stating that absent organizing legislation, American Samoa is “especially subject to American political control”).[2] In addition, although inhabitants of American Samoa are “entitled under the principles of the Constitution to be protected in life, liberty, and property, ” Congress has not extended any other constitutional provisions to American Samoa. Tuaua v. United States, 788 F.3d 300, 308 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Downes, 182 U.S. at 283).

American Samoa's unique status as an unorganized, unincorporated territory has also produced a unique judicial system within the territory. Like all territorial courts, the courts of American Samoa are not Article III courts; they were instead established by Congress. See, e.g., United States v. Xiaoying Tang Dowai, 839 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 2016). For this reason, territorial courts are sometimes called “Article IV” courts. See Meaamaile v. American Samoa, 550 F.Supp. 1227, 1235 (D. Haw. 1982) (“The courts established for American Samoa are not Article III courts, but, rather, legislative courts created by virtue of the

4

general right of sovereignty which exists in the government and by virtue of Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, which enables Congress to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States.”).

Congress has established federal judicial districts and federal district courts in each organized territory and has delegated broad judicial power to those territorial courts. See 48 U.S.C. § 1424 (Guam); 48 U.S.C. § 1821 & 1 C.M.C. § 3202 (CNMI); 48 U.S.C. §§ 1611-12 (U.S. Virgin Islands); 28 U.S.C. § 119 & 4 L.P.R.A. § 121 (Puerto Rico). American Samoa, in contrast, is the sole territory that does not have a federal court and is not part of any federal judicial district. See United States v. Lee, 472 F.3d 638, 645 (9th Cir. 2006). And while the High Court of American Samoa is the territory's “court of general jurisdiction, ” A.S.C. § 3.0208, it has only “limited” jurisdiction to hear matters of federal law. Star-Kist Samoa, Inc. v. M/V Conquest, 1987 A.M.C. 1967, 1969 (1986) (describing the High Court as a “court of discrete and limited jurisdiction”); see also Government Accountability Office, American Samoa: Issues Associated with Some Federal Court Options at 14 (2008) [hereinafter “GAO Report”] (“Despite the absence of a federal court in American Samoa, federal law provides that the local court-the High Court of American Samoa-has limited federal civil jurisdiction. . . . In particular, federal law has explicitly granted the High Court of American Samoa

5

federal jurisdiction for certain issues, such as food safety, protection of animals, conservation, and shipping issues.”).[3]

Congress has delegated authority the High Court to adjudicate federal questions under certain statutes. See, e.g., 46 U.S.C § 31301(2)(E); 29 U.S.C. § 653; 7 U.S.C. § 136(i); 7 U.S.C. § 2146(c).[4] But there may be no court in American Samoa with subject-matter jurisdiction over certain federal claims where Congress has not delegated such authority to the High Court. See, e.g., Star-Kist Samoa, 1987 A.M.C. at 1969. And because there is no federal judicial district in American Samoa, there is no possibility to remove federal cases from the High Court to a federal forum. There is also no right of appeal to a federal appellate court or to the U.S. Supreme Court from an American Samoa court ruling. See Michael W. Weaver, The Territory Federal Jurisdiction Forgot, 17 Pac. Rim L. & Pol'y J. 325, 351 (2008).

Finally, because American Samoa is an unorganized territory, the judicial branch, like the rest of American Samoa's government, remains under the

6

plenary authority of the Secretary of Interior. As such, the Secretary “appoint[s] a Chief Justice of American Samoa and such Associate Justices as he may deem necessary” and may remove them for cause. Am. Samoa Const. Art. III, § 3. The Secretary also has the power to review and overturn High Court decisions. Corp. of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Hodel, 637 F.Supp. 1398, 1410 (D.D.C. 1986) (“Hodel I”), aff'd 830 F.2d 374.

III. JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES

In this case, American Samoa's...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT