Kutak Rock attorney Dwyer Arce is Counsel of Record for the Virgin Islands Bar Association in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Virgin Islands Bar Association has appeared in the case as an amicus curiae—or friend of the court—to urge the Supreme Court to hear a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
That federal law requires states to permit absentee voting by Americans who move from a state to the U.S. territories of American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands. The case was filed by Americans living in the U.S. territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, asking the Supreme Court to determine whether it is constitutional to deny absentee voting rights in those territories while allowing citizens living in other U.S. territories—or even a foreign country—to continue voting for President and members of Congress via absentee ballot.
In its amicus brief, the Virgin Islands Bar Association asks the Supreme Court to accept the case and overturn the Insular Cases, a controversial series of decisions from the early 1900s holding that Americans living in U.S. territories lack the same constitutional rights as Americans living in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Relying on the central holding of the Insular Cases that Americans living in U.S. territories do not enjoy the same constitutional rights as every other American, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed its constitutionality even though the government could not identify the reason it had extended voting rights to some Americans but not others.
“The Bar Association is deeply concerned that the Seventh Circuit’s decision allows federal and state governments to discriminate between Americans living in different [U.S.] territories without any identifiable justification,” the brief states. “There has been a sea change in constitutional law since the Insular Cases were decided,” the brief continues, and “[t]he Bar Association urges the Court to take this opportunity to affirm the right of those living in the territories to the constitutional protections enjoyed by everyone else in America.”
The filed amicus brief can be found here. More information on the case, captioned Luis Segovia, et al. v. United States, et al., can be found here.
Before joining the litigation department in Kutak Rock’s Omaha office, Mr. Arce served as the senior law clerk to the Honorable Maria M. Cabret of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands. He is an authority on matters of Virgin Islands law and the legal issues arising from the relationship between the federal government and America’s overseas territories.