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Supreme Court denies ASG’s petition for review in LVPA ruling

U. S. Supreme Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The United States Supreme Court has “denied” the Territory of American Samoa’s petition for a “writ of certiorari” 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 Supreme Court decision, was among several made on Monday this week, and the court docket in the Territory of American Samoa vs the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), gave no other documents or information on the higher court’s denial. The list of cases under “certiorari denied” petition includes American Samoa v. NFMS.

The San Francisco, US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal was informed by the clerk of the Supreme Court via a brief notice that on Monday posted on court records, the decision on this case — “petition for a writ of certiorari is denied”.

Michael Francis Williams, attorney with the Washington D.C based law firm of Kirkland and Ellis LLP, which led American Samoa’s legal team didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News’ email inquiries Tuesday.

With the Supreme Court decision, two attorneys familiar with the petition issue told Samoa News that the case will be referred back to the appeals court, which will then direct the lower court to revisit its ruling. The attorneys only responded to the requests for a “brief” explanation to help with this story, and asked for anonymity.

The Territory of American Samoa — through ASG and the Governor’s Office — had sued 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 of Cession.”

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 whose three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision in a ruling.

In its petition to the 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 and June 02 for details.)

NMFS argued that the appeal’s court did not address “the validity and enforceability” of the deed cessions. Instead, the appeal’s court concluded that NMFS had reasonably determined that its 2016 rule altering the boundaries of the LVPA would not have any significant effect on the fishing rights that petitioner asserts the cessions protect.

According to the Respondent (NMFS), “this case would be a poor vehicle in which to evaluate the reasonableness of the 2016 rule because petitioner lacks standing to challenge that rule. The petition for a writ of certiorari should therefore be denied.” (See Samoa News edition May 14th for details.)