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Judge denies Hueter’s 2nd motion for preliminary injunction as moot

Federal Courthouse Washington, D.C.
COVID-19 restrictions on biz hours has been lifted

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 denied as moot, parts of plaintiff’s Second Motion for a Preliminary Injunction that was filed in early March this year.

U.S District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden this past Tuesday afternoon issued a two-page order saying that the court denied the motion insofar as it requested a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction — but the judge set a briefing schedule on Hueter’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Hueter’s motion had focused on the American Samoa Government’s Feb.19, 2021 COVID-19 restrictions.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the plaintiff’s main claim is constitutional challenges to the American Samoa COVID-19 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.

Hueter’s lawsuit, first filed last December and amended twice, is against current and former ASG officials. Also named in the lawsuits are federal defendants, the US Secretary of Interior, American Samoa Chief Justice Michael Kruse and Associate Justice Fiti Sunia.

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga issued on Apr. 15th a new COVID-19 declaration, effective Apr. 18 through May 18. The declaration doesn’t provide any specific restrictions on public gatherings and hours of operations for businesses. In previous declarations public gatherings and business hours wwere prohibited between 12 midnight and 5a.m. but StarKist Samoa was exempted. (See yesterday’s Samoa News online for details.)

Hueter made a recent filing with the court titled - “Notice of Relevant Information: April 15, 2021 COVID-19 Declaration” — which substantially returns plaintiff’s rights violated by the defendants. And he referred to his second motion of preliminary injunction for this new filing.

In his latest filing, Judge McFadden notes that Hueter states that the American Samoa government’s updated April 15 regulations substantially returns his rights allegedly violated by defendants, relating to plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

“The Court construes Hueter’s notice as withdrawing his Second Motion for a Preliminary Injunction,” the judge wrote.

According to Judge McFadden’s order, Hueter’s notice informs the Court that the basis of his Second Motion for a Preliminary Injunction — to seek relief from alleged violations of his rights caused by the American Samoa government’s prior COVID-19 restrictions—no longer exists, given the government’s new April 15 declaration.

“Hueter thus tells the Court that, under this new declaration, his rights have been “substantially return[ed]”, the judge said, noting that the court would, in any event, find that Hueter’s Second Motion for a Preliminary Injunction “is moot in light of his notice.”

In conclusion McFadden ordered that plaintiff’s Second Motion for a Preliminary Injunction “is DENIED as moot”.

No new information on federal court records on what Hueter’s action would be now that Lemanu has a new declaration. However, plaintiff was last week allowed to file four amended complaints in the coming days.