2 Jul 2008

GAO report has no recommendations on federal court be in American Samoa

9:22 am on 2 July 2008

The General Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress does not make any recommendations on whether or not to establish a federal court in American Samoa.

But a 117 page report it issued recently provides various scenarios for potentially changing the current system of adjudicating cases of federal law in American Samoa.

The report says one reason for establishing a federal court would deter crime, and remove the embarrassment of having local residents being taken to Hawaii or Washington D.C. to be tried.

The report said investigators and federal prosecutors interviewed said they were limited in their ability to conduct investigations and prosecute cases due to logistical obstacles.

Another argument for establishing a federal court system is that residents tried outside of the territory would be subjected to possible prejudices by jurors in other locations.

However, reasons documented in the report against establishing a federal district court centred on fears it would jeopardize the matai and land tenure systems which are protected under the Deed of Cession.

Law enforcement officials also speculated that extended family ties may limit the government's ability to successfully prosecute cases.