Alega residents file new lawsuit against Chief Justice and James McGuire
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Four residents of Alega village have filed another multi-million dollar lawsuit at the federal court in Honolulu and this time it’s against Chief Justice F. Michael Kruse and private citizen James McGuire, alleging violation of laws regarding an ex-parte communication between a judge during a High Court hearing and a private citizen and for interference with cleanup of pollution at the Alega Marine Protected Area.
The complaint was filed on May 11th and on Tuesday this week plaintiffs amended the complaint to include the US Secretary of Interior who has jurisdiction of the High Court of American Samoa as a defendant.
Plaintiffs are suing Kruse, identified as a federal defendant, and McGuire for interfering with the cleanup of pollution on the beach of Alega and in the waters and tidal area of the habitat of the endangered and threatened species of Green and Hawksbill turtles of the private Alega Marine Protected Area.
According to the complaint, during a hearing on Nov. 12th last year on plaintiffs’ case in the High Court of American Samoa against AST Telecom d/b/a Bluesky Communications, Kruse ordered the local telecom provider to clean all cable related detritus on the land and water of plaintiffs’ village of Alega, including on Alega Beach, which is part of the endangered and threatened species habitat of the Green and Hawksbill turtles, and is part of the private Alega Marine Protected Area.
Plaintiffs allege that Kruse “improperly expressed interest in owning land in Alega” during the court hearing and that McGuire also expressed the same interest of owning land in Alega.
They further allege that McGuire expressed interest in suing to gain access to the private beach in Alega, of the private Alega Marine Protected area, allegedly for the purpose of launching sailboats.
According to the plaintiffs Kruse held “an illegal ex-parte conversation” at the bench with McGuire — in violation of the American Bar Association Judicial Code of Conduct — during a Mar. 31, 2021 hearing in the High Court on the AST Telecom case.
McGuire, a legal practitioner, “has been antagonistic towards Alega Protected Area, and has openly sought access to the private beach in Alega,” the complaint alleges.
Plaintiffs also provided for the federal court, a copy of the transcript of the Mar. 31st hearing, where Kruse called McGuire to the bench for the private conversation.
After the alleged illegal conversation at the bench, Kruse “changes his position, and verbally orders no cleanup of pollution by AST Telecom on the Alega beach,” the complaint claims, noting that the endangered and threatened species habitat of the Green and Hawksbill turtles has been harmed by the continued pollution on Alega Beach.
By interfering with the cleanup of the Alega Beach, Kruse and McGuire are liable for harm to the endangered and threatened species habitat of the Green and Hawksbill turtles on Alega Beach, the plaintiffs argued.
The complaint contends that Kruse and McGuire have placed their personal interest in ownership of land in Alega above the public interest of protecting the habitat of the endangered and threatened species of Green and Hawksbill turtles on Alega beach.
The Secretary of Interior is being sued to compel her to act in her plenary authority over government agencies in American Samoa and the High Court of American Samoa to take action — to among other things — coerce Kruse to stop interfering with cleanup of corporate and government pollution on the private Alega Marine Protected Area.
The plaintiffs are seeking $200,000 compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages against Kruse and McGuire.
This lawsuit along with the plaintiffs’ other separate lawsuit against the Interior Secretary, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) and its director, Taotasi Archie Soliai, along with unnamed DMWR individuals and unnamed fishermen — are both moving forward, after plaintiffs paid the required filing fees. (See Samoa News online May 18th online for details.)