Government of American Samoa

The government of American Samoa is defined under the Constitution of American Samoa.

The United States Congress, in the Ratification Act of 1929, provided that until the Congress shall provide for the Government of the islands of American Samoa all civil, judicial, and military powers shall be vested in such person or persons and exercised in such manner as the President of the United States shall direct. In Executive Order 10264, the President of the United States directed that the Secretary of the Interior should take care for the administration of civil government in American Samoa. The Secretary promulgated the Constitution of American Samoa which was approved by a Constitutional Convention of the people of American Samoa and a majority of the voters of American Samoa voting at the 1966 election, and came into effect in 1967. The Secretary retains ultimate authority.[1][2]

The government operates under a framework of a presidential representative democratic dependency, whereby the Governor of American Samoa is the head of government. Legislative power is vested in the American Samoa Fono. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.


The power of the executive is formally vested The governor and the lieutenant governor are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms.


The Legislature, or Fono, has two chambers. The House of Representatives has 18 members, elected for a two-year term, 17 in single-seat constituencies and one by a public meeting on Swain Island. The Senate also has 18 members, elected for a four-year term by and from the chiefs of the islands.


The Judiciary of American Samoa is defined under the Constitution of American Samoa and the American Samoa Code. It consists of the High Court of American Samoa and a local district court under the administration and supervision of the Chief Justice of the High Court. Both courts are located in the capital of Pago Pago. The Chief Justice and the Associate Justice of the High Court are appointed by the United States Secretary of the Interior, and the six associate judges of the High Court and one local district court judge are appointed by the Governor of American Samoa.

Because American Samoa does not have a federal court like the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands, matters of federal law arising in American Samoa have generally been adjudicated in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii or the District Court for the District of Columbia.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Leibowitz 1980, p. 255.
  2. ^ Leibowitz 1989, p. 420.
  • Leibowitz, Arnold H (1980). "American Samoa: Decline of a Culture". California Western International Law Journal. 10: 220–271.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leibowitz, Arnold H (1989). Defining Status: A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations. ISBN 978-0-7923-0069-4. His legal position would not only permit him to investigate and overturn decisions of the judiciary in American Samoa, but the decisions of the Executive and Legislative branches as well. … The very fact that his office exists as an ombudsman, to put it kindly, or as a benevolent dictator — to put it less generously — depreciates all Samoan government institutions and makes the Samoan Constitution adopted in 1960 a giant deceit.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)