V.I. Supreme Court Bill Passes the House; Moves on to US Senate

Nov 14, 2012 Issues: Virgin Islands Issues

(Washington, D.C. – November 14, 2012) – Today, the Virgin Islands Supreme Court became one step closer to achieving direct review of its final decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Legislation to provide for direct review of decisions of the V.I. Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court passed the U.S. House of Representatives by unanimous consent Wednesday and will now go before the U.S. Senate. V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen sponsored the legislation, H.R. 6116, which amends the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands.

“Today, the House took the first step in making the Virgin Islands Supreme Court just like every other high court in the states and territories,” said Congresswoman Christensen. “This is one more step 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.”

While it took another 20 years for Virgin Islands Act No. 6687, sponsored by V.I. Sen. Carlton Dowe, to be signed into law by then Governor Charles W. Turnbull and two more years for a Chief Justice and two Associate Justices to be nominated and confirmed, for the Supreme Court to formally accept appellate jurisdiction, and the last U.S. Territory to do so, Congresswoman Christensen said it is more than fitting that the territory is on the verge of accomplishing the final goal of making the Virgin Islands Supreme just like all other state Supreme Courts.

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.