Little attention is paid to the far reaches of the federal judicial system, which extends beyond the boundaries of the continental United States and even beyond the outermost states of Alaska and Hawaii; Puerto Rico is part of the First Circuit,1 and the Virgin Islands are part of the Third Circuit.2 Most particularly, the Ninth Circuit encompasses not only Hawai’i but also the territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI). Not only has the Ninth Circuit provided judges to hear cases in the district courts in Guam and the NMI as needed and reviewed cases appealed from those districts, but, through the circuit’s Pacific Islands Committee—formerly the Pacific Territories Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States—it has also developed and helped implement policy for those courts, including their relation to the Ninth Circuit.
After a relatively brief look at the Pacific Islands Committee, the focus of the Article turns to Judge Goodwin in Guam. Particular attention is given to several years of the judge’s sittings there both as a trial judge in the U. S. District Court and as a judge in its Appellate Division; Ninth Circuit rulings on appeals from his decisions in Guam are included.
One cannot talk of federal judges in the south Pacific without touching on the Pacific Islands Committee, but the primary purpose of this Article is to provide a picture, using the cases in which Judge Goodwin participated,8 of the types of legal matters heard by the federal judiciary in Guam and in the cases the Ninth Circuit reviewed from Guam and the NMI, as well as to indicate the types of appellate cases heard in several other island venues. To be sure, many of the cases that came before the judges visiting these far outposts were like any others they encountered on the mainland—for example, routine appeals from criminal convictions and sentences—but some of the cases, whether heard out in the islands or on Ninth Circuit review, touched on institutional or structural matters with which the committee was concerned. In particular, there were prominent cases concerning appellate jurisdiction in cases from Guam and from the NMI, and some touched on the basic relations between the United States and the territories as well as on island politics, of which the mainland judges were appropriately wary. With Ninth Circuit decisions part of this Article, there will be some depiction of the interactions of judges on that court’s panels as they decided cases.
Stephen L. Wasby,
Judging and Administration for Far-Off Places: Trial, Appellate, and Committee Work in the South Pacific, 45 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 193