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Fed court allows Hueter to proceed with a third amended complaint

Federal Courthouse Washington, D.C.
The amended complaint now has 71 defendants

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The federal judge presiding over local resident Steven Jay Pincus Hueter’s lawsuit against current and former American Samoa Government officials at the federal court in Washington D.C. has allowed Hueter to proceed with a third amended complaint, which includes the US Sectary of Interior and Chief Justice Michael Kruse — both as federal defendants.

U.S District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden issued a two-page order last week Thursday following a telephonic hearing with all parties. McFadden’s order granted Hueter’s motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, which was also submitted to the court last month and is the pending lawsuit against the defendants.

The court on the other hand denied, both federal and American Samoa defendants’ motions to strike the plaintiff’s motion and dismiss the complaint.

According to the court order, plaintiff may file a motion for leave to file a fourth-amended complaint on or before May 7th, and the defendants shall file any opposition briefs on or before May 21st.

And if plaintiff chooses to file a reply, he shall file a consolidated reply — replying to both the federal defendants and the American Samoa defendants —  on or before June 4, 2021.

Additionally, defendants’ response to the plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint shall be held in abeyance until the court orders otherwise. Plaintiff is ordered by the court not to file any additional motions for temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions without prior leave of the Court.

As previously reported by Samoa News, both federal and American Samoa defendants had opposed plaintiff’s third-amended complaint, which now has 71 defendants — including Associate Justice of the High Court of American Samoa Fiti A. Sunia — a third federal defendant — and Chief Associate Judge, Mamea Sala Jr.

Other new defendants added to the list are lawmakers from the previous legislature who plaintiff claims didn’t return their share of the CARES Act money given to them — $20,000 each to the Senate President and House Speaker and $10,000 each for Fono members.

Lawmakers from last year who returned the money — and this is public information — are Reps. Larry Sanitoa, Sam Meleisea and Vesiai Poyer Samuelu, and Sens. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean and Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga T. Nua.

ASG Treasurer Malemo L. Tausaga, in a sworn affidavit filed early last month, says CARES Act funds allocated to Fono members have been returned to ASG. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 22nd for specific details.)

Other new American Samoa defendants include all members of the COVID-19 Task Force.

The plaintiff’s main claim is constitutional challenges to the COVID19 declarations, namely the restrictions preventing certain gatherings and activities after midnight and the unavailability of public transportation after midnight; Plaintiff seeks an injunction to prevent the enforcement of the COVID-19 restrictions, as well as damages, claiming that the declarations are unconstitutional.

The defendants had argued that the High Court of American Samoa is the proper forum to hear the case.

The federal defense team argued — among other things — that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over federal employees working and residing in American Samoa because those individuals do not have sufficient contacts with the District of Columbia.

They argued that the Court would lack personal jurisdiction over the claims Plaintiff proposes to assert against Chief Justice Kruse and Associate Justices in their individual capacities. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 23rd for details.)

Meanwhile, plaintiff’s separate but identical lawsuits against Kruse, Sunia and Mamea, as well as current and former ASG officials before the High Court of American Samoa have been placed on hold pending the outcome of the federal case.