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]

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.[3]


The High Court consists of four divisions:[2]

  • the trial division;
  • the probate division;
  • the land and titles division; and
  • the appellate division.

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 justices of the court:[4]

Name Term as Associate Justice Term as Chief Justice Appointed by
Harry P. Wood 1921–1937 Albert Bacon Fall (under Harding)
Arthur A. Morrow 1937–1966 Harold LeClair Ickes (under F. Roosevelt)
V.G. Roel 1963–1966 Stewart Lee Udall (under Kennedy)
Joseph W. Goss 1966–1970 Stewart Lee Udall (under Johnson)
H. Edward Hydon 1966–1968 Stewart Lee Udall (under Johnson)
Donald H. Crothers 1968–1972 Walter Hickel (under Nixon)
Leslie N. Jochimsen 1971–1975 1975–1976 Rogers Clark Ballard Morton (under Nixon)
William J. McKnight III 1972–1975 Rogers Clark Ballard 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 D. Andrus (under Carter) (Chief Justice)
Thomas Murphy 1980–1987 Cecil D. Andrus (under Carter)
Robert Gardner 1981–1986 James G. Watt (under Reagan)
Grover Joseph Rees III 1988–1991 1986–1988 William Patrick Clark (under Reagan) (Chief Justice)
Donald Paul Hodel (under Reagan) (Associate Justice)
F. Michael Kruse 1987–1988 1988–present Donald Paul Hodel (under Reagan)
Lyle L. Richmond 1991–present Manuel Lujan, Jr. (under G.H.W. Bush)

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. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ http://www.asbar.org/Digest/judicy_dig.htm
  • Tagupa, William E. H (September 1983). "Judicial Intervention in Matai Title Succession Disputes in American Samoa". Oceania. 54 (1): 23–31. JSTOR 40330715. 

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