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American Samoa: Issues Associated with Potential Changes to the Current System for Adjudicating Matters of Federal Law

GAO-08-655 Published: Jun 27, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2008.
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American Samoa is the only populated U.S. insular area that does not have a federal court. Congress has granted the local High Court federal jurisdiction for certain federal matters, such as specific areas of maritime law. GAO was asked to conduct a study of American Samoa's system for addressing matters of federal law. Specifically, this report discusses: (1) the current system for adjudicating matters of federal law in American Samoa and how it compares to those in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI); (2) the reasons offered for or against changing the current system for adjudicating matters of federal law in American Samoa; (3) potential scenarios and issues associated with establishing a federal court in American Samoa or expanding the federal jurisdiction of the local court; and (4) the potential cost elements and funding sources associated with implementing those different scenarios. To conduct this work, we reviewed previous studies and testimonies, and collected information from and conducted interviews with federal government officials and American Samoa government officials.

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