United States Senate Passes V.I. Supreme Court Bill

Dec 14, 2012 Issues: Virgin Islands Issues

(Washington, D.C. – December 14, 2012) – Last night, legislation authorizing direct review of decisions of the Virgin Islands Supreme Court by the Supreme Court of the United States, passed the U.S. Senate. The bill becomes law with President Obama’s signature.

V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen sponsored the legislation, H.R. 6116, which amends the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, with respect to the judicial procedure for appealing the decisions of courts of the Virgin Islands to courts of the United States, removing the temporary jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to review the final decisions of the highest court of the Virgin Islands.

Congresswoman Christensen said the bill passed the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent Thursday evening. “The Virgin Islands now joins every other high court in the states and territories,” said Congresswoman Christensen. “Virgin Islanders should be proud of this achievement, which brings us a step closer in the journey for further local self-governance which was begun in 1984 when my predecessor, former Delegate to Congress, Ron de Lugo, amended the Virgin Islands 1954 Organic Act to allow for the creation of an appellate court charted under local law.”

Christensen said over the last five years the V.I. Supreme Court has issued opinions on such wide-raging cases as whether and when a judge could be disciplined to affirming in a landmark ruling that women are not property. By her staff’s unofficial count, the court has issued over 180 published opinions since 2007.

She commended Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge, Associate Justices Maria M. Cabret and Ive A. Swan for their work to earn the recommendation of the Third Circuit’s Judicial Council for appeals of their decisions to go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“All Virgin Islands will look back upon this time with great pride and gratitude for the way in which they laid the foundation for appellate jurisprudence in the territory that is second to none,” concluded Congresswoman Christensen.