State briefs for October 18

Court rejects appeal to give American Samoans citizenship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal seeking to give people born in American Samoa U.S. citizenship.


In leaving in place an appeals court decision, the court also passed up an invitation to overturn a series of decisions dating back to 1901 known as the Insular Cases, replete with racist and anti-foreign rhetoric. Justice Neil Gorsuch had called for the cases to be overturned in April.

But the justices refused to take up an appeal from people born in American Samoa, and living in Utah, who argued that a federal law declaring that they are “nationals, but not citizens, of the United States at birth” is unconstitutional.

A trial judge in Utah ruled in their favor, but the federal appeals court in Denver said Congress, not courts, should decide the citizenship issue. The appeals court also noted that American Samoa’s elected leaders opposed the lawsuit for fear that it might disrupt their cultural traditions.

“It’s a punch in the gut for the Justices to leave in place a ruling that says I am not equal to other Americans simply because I was born in a U.S. territory,” John Fitisemanu, the lead plaintiff, said in a statement. “I was born on U.S. soil, have a U.S. passport and pay my taxes like everyone else. But because of a discriminatory federal law, I am not recognized as a U.S. citizen.”

American Samoa is the only unincorporated territory of the United States where the inhabitants are not American citizens at birth.

Ex-Honolulu planning official pleads guilty in bribery case

HONOLULU (AP) — A former Honolulu building plans examiner pleaded guilty Monday to all charges in an indictment accusing him of participating in a scheme to take bribes in exchange for expediting projects.

Wayne Inouye pleaded guilty to six counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of making a false statement. He did not have an agreement with U.S. prosecutors about what sentence they will seek.

Prosecutors say Inouye took at least $89,000 in bribes from an architect and several thousand dollars from others to approve and expedite their projects ahead of others.

Inouye lied to an FBI agent and federal prosecutor when he told them an architect loaned him $100,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan said.

When asked by the judge at Monday’s hearing to describe what he did, Inouye didn’t use the words bribe or bribery.

He said an architect offered to compensate him to review plans before submitting them so that he could ensure they were code-compliant.

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