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Microjuris to host panel as US high court takes up ‘insular cases’


Once again, the United States Supreme Court is being asked to consider revoking the jurisprudential framework that, since 1901, has established that U.S. territories and their inhabitants deserve different treatment, fewer rights and fewer constitutional protections.

By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


In the aftermath of the most recent natural disaster in Puerto Rico, the so-called “insular cases” doctrine returns to knock on the doors of the United States Supreme Court on Friday when the high court hears a case involving people born in American Samoa.


Once again, the highest judicial forum in the United States is asked to consider revoking the jurisprudential framework that, since 1901, has established that territories and their inhabitants deserve different treatment, fewer rights and fewer constitutional protections.


The new case is Fitisemanu vs. United States, and on this occasion, at issue is unequal treatment in citizenship matters for people born in American Samoa.


The Supreme Court will consider the Certiorari filing requesting the revocation of the insular cases.


Although the situation of each territory is different, according to the conditions of the treaties by which they were acquired and certain historical developments, they all have some things in common.


The insular cases are the constitutional infrastructure on which unequal treatment is based, and which can be seen in recent times in disaster recovery, bankruptcies of government entities, congressional representation, taxes, civil rights, benefits from federal programs, among other contexts.


“Microjuris, in its mission to make legal debate accessible to all, has united efforts with the Equally American and Latino Justice organizations, who have joined together to lead legal efforts to address these challenges and revoke this group of cases,” said Ataveyra Medina Hernández, CEO of Microjuris and moderator of a panel on the subject that will be held this week. “By uniting the voices of all territories, we create an opportunity to assess the complexities of the insular cases and the dimensions which today impact the life and rights of the people who are born and live in the territories, from a non-partisan human rights perspective.”


The organizations will participate in a panel entitled “Insular Cases: ‘Odious and Wrong,’ Voices from the Territories,” which will take place Wednesday, at 7 p.m. ET on the Microjuris Facebook channel.


The panel will feature Neil Weare from Guam and Charles Ala’ilima from American Samoa, both lawyers in the Fitisemanu case; a legislator from the Northern Mariana Islands, Sheila Babauta; Lía Fiol Matta, a lawyer dedicated to civil rights matters in Puerto Rico; and Brian Modeste, director of insular affairs for the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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