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  • By Gina T. Reilly

ABA backs 4th Amendment application in US territories

The American Bar Association's House of Delegates on Monday passed a resolution supporting the full application of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure to people and goods traveling between the U.S. territories and other parts of the United States.

Neil Weare

The resolution was proposed by the Virgin Islands Bar Association.

“The ABA resolution recognizes the injustice of having a rule for the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures that protects citizens living in the 50 states and Puerto Rico but does not protect citizens living in other territories,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million residents of U.S. territories.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that protection from unreasonable search and seizure extends to the U.S. territories. However, a decision last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit deviated from the high court's landmark ruling.

The reconciliation of the inconsistent decisions has been left in limbo when

the Supreme Court denied a petition to review in January.

The ABA's resolution supports an interpretation of the Fourth Amendment that would protect against unreasonable searches of people and goods traveling between the mainland United States and the U.S. territories-- U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

“We are grateful for the ABA’s ongoing support of equal rights for residents of U.S. territories, and we appreciate the consistent leadership of the Virgin Islands Bar Association in raising these issues on the national stage, " Weare said.


The resolution supports the passage of legislation to enshrine these protections and abolish the application of the border-search exception to travel between the U.S. territories and other parts of the United States.

The ABA also passed several other resolutions introduced by the Virgin Islands Bar Association, including Resolution 10C which supports allowing federal judges in U.S. territories to assume senior status or to fully retire upon completion of their terms consistent with other federal judges appointed for limited terms.

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