Scalia’s Death Complicates Tuaua Citizenship Case for the Islands


Washington – The untimely death Friday of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, complicates the outcome of a key citizenship case, that could have long-term implications for Guam and the other US islands. PNC’s Washington Correspondent Matt Kaye reports.


Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley has already said publicly in the media, the GOP should not take up the nomination of a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court, until after the November election.

But Grassley has not shut the door to holding hearings on a nominee.

We asked the Chairman this week, if he’ll hold hearings on a nominee, if President Obama nominates someone–“Well ask your question again, when a nominee comes up…‘cause I’m going to take this a step at a time. You heard what I said over the weekend…I think it’d be very good for the Supreme Court, the public’s understanding, public input, ‘cause this is a very hot issue, during the coming election,” said Grassley.

But what about a 4-4 tied court? A tie could undermine appeals in key cases, like a citizenship case brought by American Samoans that has an indirect bearing on constitutional birthright citizenship for children of foreigners born in Guam and the CNMI.

Longtime GOP adviser to the US islands, Fred Radewagen said, “This has been turned down at the district court level, and at the appellate level…but the attorneys for the appellants are now seeking to have the case heard at the Supreme Court. It only takes four justices to agree to hear it. But if the case were to be heard this year, and if it were to finish in a 4-4 tie, then the appellants would be defeated, and the appellate court decision would stand.”

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and Virgin Islands Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett have filed ‘friend of the court’ briefs in the Tuaua case, siding with the plaintiffs and against American Samoan leaders and the White House.

Bordallo and Plaskett see the case as boosting Democratic rights, including presidential voting rights in the islands. American Samoa officials, including Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen want to preserve the right of American Samoans, now US nationals, to choose their own status.