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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Acoba’s appointment
to state Supreme Court

Bullet The issue: Governor Cayetano has appointed longtime friend Simeon Acoba to the Supreme Court.

Bullet Our view: Acoba's experience and reputation as a judge make him highly qualified for the job.

SIMEON Acoba's nomination to the state Supreme Court came as no surprise. The expectation that Governor Cayetano would name his longtime friend to fill the vacancy probably discouraged prospective candidates from applying for the post, resulting in few applicants.

But Acoba had more than his friendship with the governor in his favor. His long experience on the bench and wide acceptance in the legal community should lead to quick confirmation by the state Senate.

Cayetano and Acoba, both of Filipino ancestry, shared office space more than 20 years ago when both were in private law practice. In the years since then, Acoba has built a reputation as a competent judge with what former Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein describes as a moderately liberal perspective.

Acoba was nominated as a circuit judge in 1980 by then-Gov. George Ariyoshi. After 14 years in Circuit Court, presiding in the early years over criminal trials and then over civil cases, he was named in 1994 by then-Gov. John Waihee as a judge on the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

When Acoba as a circuit judge came under criticism in 1982 by then-City Prosecutor Charles Marsland, Cayetano, then a state senator, rose to Acoba's defense, wielding a machete in a Senate floor speech. Marsland derided Cayetano as well. Both Acoba and Cayetano survived the fray and went on to higher positions while Marsland was defeated in a bid for re-election. When Cayetano was re-elected governor, he asked Acoba to administer his oath of office.

Acoba "possesses the legal scholarship, compassion and judicial temperament that I believe are important to serving on the state's highest court," Cayetano said in announcing the nomination. "His integrity is unquestionable. And his commitment to public service spans over two decades and covers every branch of government."

A governor concerned about public perception is bound to let political factors enter into deciding whom to appoint to the state's highest court, but in this case there was no need to sacrifice merit to political considerations. Approaching the mid point of his second and last term as governor, in what may be his only opportunity to make a Supreme Court appointment, Cayetano perhaps had a special incentive to make a good choice. We think he did.

American Samoa’s
centennial observance

Bullet The issue: American Samoa is celebrating the centennial of the ceding of the islands to the United States.

Bullet Our view: Hawaii should join the American Samoans in their festivities.

THIS is a big week in American Samoa. Yesterday was the centennial of the first official raising of the American flag after 20 chiefs ceded the islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u to the United States.

American Samoans marked the anniversary with Flag Day parades and celebrations.

Unlike some Hawaiians who deplore the annexation of these islands by the United States in 1898, American Samoans seem to have few regrets.

"It is best that we remain the way it is right now, a great partnership with the United States," said Gov. Tauese Sunia, a Democrat and ranking chief who was elected in 1996. American Samoans have twice had options to change their relationship with Washington and both times voted to maintain the status quo.

American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory -- meaning not all provisions of the U.S. Constitution apply to residents and there is no organic act to organize the government. Instead residents were allowed to draft their own constitution, although the territory is under the authority of the Department of the Interior.

That status has enabled the islanders to maintain traditional customs, such as communal ownership of lands and the appointment of legislators by councils of island chiefs.

American Samoa has had an elected governor since 1977. The first, the late Peter Tali Coleman, had close ties to Hawaii.

In the late 19th century the United States, Britain and Germany competed for control of the islands. After a hurricane destroyed warships of the three nations, an 1899 treaty gave the United States control of what became American Samoa and Germany acquired what is now the independent nation of Samoa.

The islands' population is estimated at 64,000; thousands more have emigrated to Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, where they have contributed their Polynesian cultural heritage and strong religious faith to their communities.

All is not rosy in American Samoa. It has had its share of financial problems and corruption scandals. Recently the government found itself unable to pay $5 million in payroll deductions and owing $10 million to vendors. The economy, based largely on canned fish exports and federal revenues, is stagnant. Population growth is a concern.

Nevertheless, after a century of American rule the islanders seem happy to continue living under the Stars and Stripes. The consensus remains strong among chiefs and elders to preserve the relationship with United Status unchanged.

Hawaii, which has several thousand residents who were born in American Samoa or have Samoan ancestry, should join its Polynesian friends in their festivities.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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