Since receiving the Opinion and Order which found our contract with ASTCA unenforceable and the denial of our Motion for Reconsideration which reiterated the Order, I have filed a Notice of Appeal. When attempting to find out how to appeal a civil case in American Samoa, I was referred to the website asbar.org, more specifically here.
The website, asbar.org is not an official government or Justice Department website. It is the website for the American Samoa Bar Association. The Clerk of Courts Office referred me to that website with this caveat: “Their site has been up and down lately, and some sections may not load for viewing.” A little more research on asbar.org revealed that the site has not been updated for many years. With all these problems, it is unreasonable for anyone to be expected to rely on the website for critical court information.
So, I went looking further for information on the appeals process as it relates to American Samoa. I found some information on the U.S. Department of Justice website at https://www.justice.gov/jmd/ls/american-samoa where it states,
Appellate Division of the High Court of American Samoa
Typically, five justices sit on a panel; one of the justices of this court, two others selected by the Secretary of the Interior, usually from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, and two associate judges from the Trial Division of the High Court of Samoa.
After finding this information, I asked the Clerk of Courts in American Samoa to describe the makeup of the Appeals Court. His answer was, “I’m not quite certain what you might be referring to, or looking for, in the question of the Appeals Court makeup. I’m forwarding (bcc) your email to our Staff Attorney for your question on the makeup of the Appeals Court.” In a later email, the clerk gave me a good answer, saying, “The Appellate panel would consist of available Justices, and Judges, that have not been involved at the lower level (Trial Level) or was an attorney of record at some point in time. Should the need arise, the Chief Justice may request from Interior the need for Associate Justices. Typically, the panel is made up of 3 Justices and 2 Associate Judges. A quorum would consist of 2 Justices and 2 Associate Judges.”
It seems like things are coming together except that I have been unable to get the requisite estimate for trial transcripts which must come from the court reported who reported the court proceedings. I have been unable to get the estimate because, as I have been told, the reporter is on leave. The on leave situation has persisted at least since my first inquiry on or about October 4, 2023.
When asked whether the Clerk’s Office can send transcript estimates by email, the Clerk answered, “The Clerk’s Office does not serve transcripts to either party. The reporter will serve the Appellant, and it is the responsibility of the Appellant to serve a copy to the other side.” This is contrary to the statement of Appeals Court Rules on asbar.org which reads, “Within 10 days after receiving the reporter’s or clerk’s estimate the appellant shall order from the reporter a transcript.” Notice the “or clerk’s” part of the preceding sentence. So, I can only guess that the Clerk’s office does not send estimates by email.