Virgin Islands Lawyer Sues U.S. Government Over Right to Vote

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I received the following email from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands lawyer, J. Russell Pate of the Pate Law Firm via the ABA International Litigation Committee Listerv:

Dear International Litigation Member,

For your information, please find attached a Complaint [ pdf copy of Second Amended Complaint] regarding the right to vote for Congressional representatives and U.S. President for the United States Virgin Islands.  The United Nations has noted that the islands are a non-self governing territory without the ability to participate in every level of government which has control over them.

The Complaint is a strait-forward historical expose of racial discrimination in the U.S. Congress which resulted in the denial of the Virgin Islands (a majority non-white jurisdiction) to be deprived of the right to participate in federal elections.



J. Russell Pate, Esq.

The Pate Law FirmRoyal Dane Mall,

2nd Fl.P.O. Box 890St. Thomas , VI 00804


Office 340.777-5266

Fax 340.227-5299 Cell

“Without the jury, there is no justice.”

The pleading makes for very interesting and informative reading. I invite knowledgeable comments from those with experience in U.S. constitutional law on whether the action meets the plausibility standard under the Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)  and Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009).

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3 Responses to “Virgin Islands Lawyer Sues U.S. Government Over Right to Vote”

  1. Ted Folkman Says:

    Antonin, it seems to me the problems with these claims isn’t a pleading problem; its a substance problem. The First Circuit (here in Boston, which has jurisdiction of appeals from the District of Puerto Rico) has rejected claims of a right to vote for President and for representatives in Congress in a series of cases, the most recent of which, Igartua IV, was denied en banc rehearing earlier this year over an impassioned dissent from Judge Toruella, who is referenced in a footnote in the complaint you provide. The basic problem with the complaint is the text of the Constitution itself. As to election of the President, Article II, Section 1 provides: “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” As to the House of Representatives, Article I, Section 2 provides: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states.

    At the risk of oversimplifying, the First Circuit’s view is that because Puerto Rico is not a state, the Constitution does not permit it to elect electors for President or to elect representatives to Congress. The plaintiffs in the Puerto Rican cases have attempted to argue that the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights somehow alters the equation, but the First Circuit has rejected this argument on the grounds that the Convention is not self-executing. Nor will the First Circuit countenance any claim that the deprivation of the right to vote is unconstitutional, because the Constitution itself defines who may and may not vote for federal office. I would be shocked if the outcome in this case is any different.

    I am posting on the most recent Puerto Rico case, Igartua IV, tomorrow, because the it is one of two high-profile spats on the court concerning denial of rehearings en banc. The other spat concerned the denial of rehearing en banc in a claim against the government brought by the estate of a victim of the government’s long and sordid relationship with reputed mobster Whitey Bulger.

    I will give a link to my post when it is published, on Monday.

  2. What’s Going On In The First Circuit? | Letters Blogatory Says:

    […] the US Virgin Islands, brought in the Virgin Islands Superior Court, which is the subject of a recent post at The Trial Warrior.Photo credits: UndergroundBastard & WBURFirst Circuit, Frolic and […]

  3. “Virgin Islands Lawyer Sues U.S. Government Over Right to Vote” | Election Law Blog Says:

    […] here. This entry was posted in voting. Bookmark the permalink. ← “Court ruling throws […]

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