The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRYANT
Plaintiff, an American citizen living in American Samoa, had been charged in the High Court of American Samoa with willful failure to pay Samoan income tax and to file an income tax return in violation of pertinent sections of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as adopted by the Revised Code of American Samoa. The Chief Justice of the above-mentioned court denied plaintiff's motion for a jury trial, and plaintiff filed this suit against the Secretary of the Interior as administrator of American Samoa requesting, (1) a declaration that the denial of jury trial to an American citizen charged with serious crime in the American Samoan court is unconstitutional; and (2) an injunction against the Secretary's enforcement of any judgment of conviction against him not based on a jury verdict.
After cross-motions for summary judgment were filed, this court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff appealed, and our U.S. Court of Appeals, noting probable jurisdiction, reversed and remanded with directions to this court to render a decision which rests on a solid understanding of the present legal and cultural development of American Samoa. The Court stated:
"That understanding cannot be based on unsubstantiated opinion; it must be based on facts.
"Specifically, it must be determined whether the Samoan mores and matai culture with its strict societal distinctions will accommodate a jury system in which a defendant is tried before his peers; whether a jury in Samoa could fairly determine the facts of a case in accordance with the instructions of the court without being unduly influenced by customs and traditions of which the criminal law takes no notice; and whether the implementation of a jury system would be practicable. In short, the question is whether in American Samoa 'circumstances are such that trial by jury would be impractical and anomalous.'" King v. Morton, 172 U.S. App. D.C. 126, 133, 520 F.2d 1140, 1147 (1975).
Pursuant to these directions, an extensive trial was held.
It appears that plaintiff is correct in his contention that the jurisdictional issue has been resolved in his favor by the Act of Congress (Public Law 94-574, 90 Stat. 2721) amending 28 U.SC. § 1331 which eliminates the required showing of a value of $10,000 of the matter of controversy; and also by Ralpho v. Bell, 569 F.2d 607, decided by our Court of Appeals on March 29, 1977. The defendant does not seriously contend otherwise.
Defendant claims that "Fa'a Samoa" (the Samoan way of life) encompasses a complex system of personal interrelationships manifestly adverse to a jury system. The main features of this system are the "aiga" or extended family, the "matai" or chieftal system, the land tenure system under which nearly all land is communally owned, and the custom of "ifoga" whereby one family renders formal apology to another for a serious offense committed by one of its members.
The smallest social unit is the au aiga or household which consists of a group of relatives living together in a particular area, and numbering between five and perhaps thirty-five persons, ranging from sons and daughters to in-laws, cousins and adopted persons.
At the head of the au aiga is a matai or chief who is selected by the members of the household to manage the land and their daily affairs.
The defendant presents the aiga as a commonly used relationship grouping, which in one context would include various clans under a particular family name, thus numbering hundreds of people who are all conscious of strong family ties, and who in effect form a close-knit group, under a single matai. This represents the so-called extended family concept.
This accounts for a different level, or higher ranking matais who control the assignment of land to the various families of the larger family or clan. In addition to this authority, the matais also direct much of the social and religious life of their families in the districts and at the village level. Matais are respected and have some influence over their family members.
Finally, the defendant emphasizes a "sense of oneness" on the part of American Samoans arising out of the almost endless family relationships and the smallness of the area. He alleges that everyone is familiar with almost everyone else, and that not only do Samoans feel strong loyalties to the members of their aiga, they also feel a strong loyalty and bond with all Samoans.
The defendant contends that in the light of these features of the Samoan way of life no jury of impartial persons could be empaneled. He reasons that Samoans would not be truthful on voir dire about relationships to parties in a trial; that lawyers would not exercise challenges against prospective jurors for fear of offending matai of their families or other families; that Samoans would not convict a matai of a crime because of repercussions which would follow the family relationships; and that matais would influence the vote of jurors. And finally, he seriously urges that if an ifoga were accepted by the family of a victim of the crime no jury would convict an accused.
Predictably, plaintiff discounts the current force and effect of these cultural phenomena insofar as they might doom an effective jury system in criminal proceedings, and extols certain aspects of American Samoa's background and development which he ...