Territory of Guam v. Olsen
431 U.S. 195 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Territory of Guam v. Olsen, 431 U.S. 195 (1977)

Territory of Guam v. Olsen

No. 76-439

Argued March 29, 1977

Decided May 23, 1977

431 U.S. 195

Syllabus

Provision of § 22 of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam that the District Court of Guam "shall have such appellate jurisdiction as the [Guam] legislature may determine" held not to authorize the Guam Legislature to divest the District Court's appellate jurisdiction under the Act to hear appeals from local Guam courts, and to transfer that jurisdiction to the newly created Guam Supreme Court, but to empower the legislature to "determine" that jurisdiction only in the sense of the selection of what should constitute appealable causes. This conclusion is supported not only by the text of § 22, which expressly authorizes only a "transfer" of the District Court's original local jurisdiction, but also by the absence of any clear signal from Congress that it intended to allow the Guam Legislature to foreclose appellate review by Art. III courts, including this Court, of territorial courts' decisions in federal question cases; by the Act's legislative history; and by the fact that, if the word "determine" were read as giving Guam the power to transfer the District Court's appellate jurisdiction to the Guam Supreme Court and at the same time to authorize Guam to deny review of the District Court's decisions by any Art. III tribunal, Congress would have given Guam a power not granted to any other Territory. Pp. 431 U. S. 199-204.

540 F.2d 1011, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 431 U. S. 204.

Page 431 U. S. 196

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