High Court of American Samoa
The High Court of American Samoa courthouse
Established1921 (103 years ago)
LocationFagatogo, American Samoa
Composition methodappointed by the United States Secretary of the Interior
Authorized byConstitution of American Samoa
Appeals toUnited States Secretary of the Interior (no appeals in practice)[1]
Number of positions2
Chief Justice
CurrentlyMichael Kruse

The High Court of American Samoa is a Samoan court and the highest court below the United States Supreme Court in American Samoa. The Court is located in the capital of Fagatogo. It consists of one chief justice and one associate justice, appointed by the United States Secretary of the Interior, holding office during "good behavior" and removable for cause.[2] As American Samoa has no local federal district court or territorial court, the High Court has also been granted the powers of a federal district court in certain matters while other federal matters are handled by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.[3]

The High Court of American Samoa also has several Samoan associate judges who sit with the two justices. Normally, two associate judges will sit with the chief justice and associate justice on every case.

The Secretary of the Interior retains ultimate authority over the courts.[4]

The colonial-style Maugaolii High Court served as the U.S. Navy headquarters during World War II.[5]


The High Court consists of four divisions:[2]

The trial division, which consists of the Chief Justice, the Associate Justice, and associate judges, is a court of general jurisdiction, empowered to hear, among other things, felony cases and civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000.


The past and present justices of the court:[6]

Name Term as Associate Justice Term as Chief Justice Appointed by
Harry P. Wood 1921–1937 Albert B. Fall (under Harding)
Arthur A. Morrow 1937–1966 Harold L. Ickes (under F. Roosevelt)
V. G. Roel 1963–1966 Stewart Udall (under Kennedy)
Joseph W. Goss 1966–1970 Stewart Udall (under Johnson)
H. Edward Hydon 1966–1968 Stewart Udall (under Johnson)
Donald Hawk Crothers 1968–1972 Wally Hickel (under Nixon)
Leslie N. Jochimsen 1971–1975 1975–1976 Rogers Morton (under Nixon)
William J. McKnight III 1972–1975 Rogers Morton (under Nixon)
K. William O'Connor 1976–1977 1977–1978 Thomas S. Kleppe (under Ford)
Richard I. Miyamoto 1976–1978 1978–1981 Thomas S. Kleppe (under Ford) (Associate Justice)
Cecil Andrus (under Carter) (Chief Justice)
Thomas W. Murphy 1980–1987 Cecil Andrus (under Carter)
Robert Gardner 1981–1986 James G. Watt (under Reagan)
Grover J. Rees III 1988–1991 1986–1988 William P. Clark Jr. (under Reagan) (Chief Justice)
Donald P. Hodel (under Reagan) (Associate Justice)
Michael Kruse 1987–1988 1988–present Donald P. Hodel (under Reagan)
Lyle L. Richmond 1991–2017 Manuel Lujan Jr. (under G.H.W. Bush)
Fiti A. Sunia 2019–present David Bernhardt (under Trump)

See also


  1. ^ https://digital.law.washington.edu/dspace-law/bitstream/handle/1773.1/552/17PacRimLPolyJ325.pdf?sequence=1, 351.
  2. ^ a b Tagupa 1983, p. 23.
  3. ^ "American Samoa: Issues Associated with Some Federal Court Options". Government Accountability Office. September 18, 2008.
  4. ^ Leibowitz, Arnold H (1989). Defining Status: A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations. p. 420. ISBN 978-0-7923-0069-4. His legal position would not only permit him to investigate and overturn decisions of the judiciary in American Samoa, but the decisions of the Executive and Legislative branches as well. … The very fact that his office exists as an ombudsman, to put it kindly, or as a benevolent dictator — to put it less generously — depreciates all Samoan government institutions and makes the Samoan Constitution adopted in 1960 a giant deceit.
  5. ^ Schermeister, Phil (2016). National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States. National Geographic Books. ISBN 9781426216510.
  6. ^ "Past High Court Justices". American Samoa Bar Association. March 19, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2022.