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Feds request additional time to respond in LVPA case

U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The federal government has requested additional time to file a response to the Territory of American Samoa’s writ of certiorari petition to review a federal appeal’s court ruling, which reversed a lower court decision dealing with the Large Vessel Protected Area (LVPA) in territorial waters.

The federal government’s response, was due on Mar. 29th but Acting US Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar this week, requested the court for an extension of time within which to file the government’s response.

“This extension is requested to complete preparation of the government’s response, which was delayed because of the heavy press of earlier assigned cases to the attorneys handling this matter,” Prelogar wrote in a Mar. 24th letter to the Clerk of the Court.

The request was granted last week and NMFS has until Apr. 28th to file a response, according to court records.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the Territory of American Samoa — through the Governor’s Office and ASG — sued the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and other federal officials, over a 2016 rule in which NMFS reduced the LVPA from 50 miles to 12 to help the US locally based longline fleet.

The lawsuit argued among other things that the federal agency acted arbitrarily in changing the boundaries. The Territory argued that the final rule “threatened cultural fishing rights protected by the Deeds” — the Deed of Cession for Tutuila and Aunu’u in 1900 and the 1904 Deed for the Manu’a islands. ASG contends that NMFS failed to consider the Deeds in its final rule.

The federal court in Honolulu, which heard the case, sided with American Samoa but NMFS and other federal defendants appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose three-panel of judges reversed the lower court’s decision in a four-page decision issued last September.

In its petition filed last month with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Territory argued — among other things — that the “Ninth Circuit’s decision threatens to disrupt the relationship between the United States and one of its longstanding territories — a relationship predicated upon voluntary agreements that had served both sides well for more than a century.” (See Samoa News edition Feb. 24th for details.)