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Archive for August 11th, 2022


Will the Insular Cases Be the Next to Be Overturned by Supreme Court?

The Insular Cases were a series of Supreme Court decisions that decreed limits to the rights of U.S. citizens in territories based largely on their race.  The cases arose from the U.S. acquisition of new territories from Spain after the Spanish-American War and the subsequent demands of residents of those places for equal rights.  The Supreme Court held that full constitutional protection of rights does not automatically extend to all places under American control only those places fully incorporated (that is deemed on the path to statehood by the U.S. government).

Currently the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear a case on this issue in Fitisemanu v. United States. This case is brought by U.S. nationals from American Samoa who do not have full U.S. citizenship.  American Samoans are U.S. nationals but not citizens, preventing them from voting in state and federal elections even when they become residents of a state. Natives of other territories are U.S. citizens who can exercise all constitutional rights provided they first move to a state.

This comes on the heels of the case decided by the Court in May of this year: United States v. Vaello-Madero in which both Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor opined against the main ruling of the Insular Cases.

Now the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates has passed Resolution 404 calling for equal rights for the 3.6 million residents of U.S. territories and rejecting the Insular Cases.

So now legal watchers, researchers, attorneys etc. have to wait and see what will happen next regarding the Insular Cases and rights for people in the U.S. territories.