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“When a case is stayed, all activity in that case is suspended …” Court tells Alega plaintiffs

Federal Courthouse Honolulu, Hawaii

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A federal judge in Honolulu has ordered four Alega residents, who are suing ASG — along with current and former government officials, as well as the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority and AST Telecom d/b/a Bluesky Communications and their current and former executives — not to submit any new filings with the court until a current “stay order” in this legal matter, is lifted.

In the multi-million lawsuit, filed Apr. 26th with the federal court in Honolulu, plaintiffs Steven Jay Pincus Hueter, Rosalia Tisa Faamuli, Chief Faamuli Pete Faamuli, and Michael S. Kirk claimed that the defendants violated federal population laws, federal environmental protection laws, federal endangered species protection laws, and federal marine sanctuary protection laws. (See Samoa News online May 4th for details.)

Then on Apr. 30th, US District Court Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright issued a “stay in this case pending proof” that plaintiffs have satisfied the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) 60-day notice requirements.”

The plaintiffs quickly filed a reply that it intends to comply with the ESA and MPRSA requirements, but then on May 5th, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, which also adds more defendants — both local and federal officials, as well as ASG agencies and several federal agencies — as well as new claims.

The following day, on May 6th, Seabright issued a new order, which took issue with the plaintiffs not following the court’s “stay” order on all pending procedures on this case.

“When a case is stayed, all activity in that case is suspended until the stay is lifted,” the chief judge explained, noting that for this case, it means that all activity is suspended until 60 days after “plaintiffs have notified the relevant federal agencies of their intent to sue under the ESA and MPRSA.”

Regarding plaintiffs’ amended complaint, the judge said, “no party is allowed to submit filings while a case is stayed.” Therefore, he ordered that the amended complaint is “STRICKEN”, and “plaintiffs are advised to cease submitting additional filings until the stay has been lifted.”

Of course, said the judge, plaintiffs should submit a filing notifying the court that the notice requirement has been satisfied - that is, that they have notified the relevant agencies and the requisite 60 days have passed.

Seabright also said that the now-stricken amended complaint appears to name new defendants and “alleges new claims unrelated to the underlying controversy in this case.”

“In particular, Plaintiffs' proposed claims against new defendants regarding ex-parte communications and illegal fishing appear to be unrelated to the ESA and MPRSA claims in the original complaint,” he said.

Seabright advised plaintiffs that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 they may not join new defendants unless the claims against those defendants are "arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences at issue in the underlying case; here, the depositing of telecommunication detritus allegedly in violation of the ESA and MPRSA.”

While the court understands that plaintiffs “are eager to move forward with their claims”, Seabright points out that in “order for the case to be adjudicated fairly, plaintiffs must follow court orders and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”

“Improper filings only have the effect of delaying resolution of this case,” Seabright concluded.