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Supreme Court skips review of Insular Cases anew

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday skipped once again the opportunity to revisit the Insular Cases after refusing to review an appeals court’s ruling on Puerto Rico’s retirement laws for teachers and judges.

“We had hoped that the Supreme Court would take the case, because it contained many issues of first impression and widespread repercussions,” said Rolando Emmanuelli- Jiménez, one of the attorneys for the petitioners.

The petition was filed by the Frente Amplio en Defensa de la Educación Pública, an organization of teachers that advocates for public education in Puerto Rico.

The FADEP appealed the First Circuit’s decision on the group’s lawsuit against Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico. The appeals court upheld the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Plan of Adjustment and annulled the retirement laws for teachers and judges.


“By denying the petition, the court allowed the Oversight Board to become the new legislative power, through the bankruptcy process,” Jimenéz said.

“Even when PROMESA itself did not grant the board this power to legislate, the practical effect of that denial is to allow the Board to legislate, with all the nefarious consequences that may have on the future of our country,” he added.

A component of the petition was the question of "Whether the Insular Cases should be overruled."

Earlier this year, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor called on the Supreme Court to overrule the Insular Cases in "an appropriate case."

In U.S. v. Vaello Madero, Gorsuch said the Insular Cases "rest on a rotten foundation" and Sotomayor called the Insular Cases "odious and wrong."

The question on the Insular Cases was also inserted into the Fitisemanu v. United States, which the Supreme Court earlier denied review as well.

"Next year marks the 125th Anniversary of the United States having formal overseas colonies, yet the Supreme Court continues to avoid answering whether the colonial framework established by the racist Insular Cases remains 'good law,'" said Neil Weare, president and Founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights in U.S. territories.

Weare represented the plaintiffs in Fitisemanu v. United States, which the Supreme Court denied review of last month. "It is increasingly clear not only that the United States has a colonies problem, but that it stubbornly refuses to recognize it," Weare added.

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