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Extension granted for filing briefs in legal battle involving the LVPA

National Marine Fisheries Service logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The legal battle over the reduction of the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) in territorial waters, between the territory of American Samoa — through the ASG — and the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is heading into the new year as attorneys for the federal defendants - including the US Commerce Department - have sought a new date for filing briefs in the case.

In September this year, the case was released from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s mediation program where it had been since last year when NMFS appealed a decision by the federal court in Honolulu, in which the judge sided with plaintiff ASG, citing the Deeds of Cession and invalidated the federal agency’s final rule in 2016 that reduced the LVPA, which was put in place more than 10 years ago to protect the local 'alia fleet.

NMFS was to file an opening brief last month while ASG was to respond on Monday this week. But federal appeals court records show that NMFS on Dec. 7th requested that its opening brief be extended to Jan. 16, 2019.

US Department of Justice (USDOJ) attorney Robert J. Lundman — one of the USDOJ attorneys for the defendants — explained in court filings the reason for seeking the extension, which also provides an insight of the complexity involved in the legal battle.

The explanation shows that there is another higher US government official who gives the final say on moving forward with an appeal.

While there has been a lot of local and off island interest in the outcome of this case, since it involves the Deeds of Cession, some have raised concerns over the length of time it is taking to resolve the matter.

According to Lundman, the extension to file an opening brief is necessary to allow “adequate time for the responsible officials to complete the process of deciding whether the United States will proceed with its appeal in this matter.” 

Additionally, the US Solicitor General has the authority to determine whether the United States will pursue an appeal here. “Obtaining his approval requires an extensive review process within the Department of Justice,” Lundman said, adding that this  process is not complete, and the extension is required to complete the review.

He further explained that after the appeal is authorized to proceed, the brief will need to be reviewed and approved by officials in both the Department of Justice and the interested agencies. The approval, drafting, and review processes will take a substantial amount of time and effort, and the extension is required to complete these processes.

The appeals court on Dec. 11th granted NOAA’s request for an extension to file an opening brief to Jan. 16th next year.

Besides the LVPA case, Samoa News has also received many inquiries on the outcome of the citizenship lawsuit before the federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah. As of yesterday morning, the presiding judge had yet to issue an opinion on the matter, in which three US nationals living in Utah had argued that because they were born in American Samoa, they are entitled to automatic US citizenship under the US Constitution.