Supreme Court Rejects Guam's Application for Extension
The Supreme Court has denied Guam’s request for an extension of time to appeal a recent Ninth Circuit decision, invalidating Guam’s racially restrictive plebiscite law. The law would have restricted the right to vote in a political status plebiscite to “Native Inhabitants of Guam”—a term that the Ninth Circuit recognized as a substitute for “Chamorro people,” an indigenous racial group. CIR challenged this law as a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition on racially discriminatory voting restrictions.
Guam’s governor, Lou Leon Guerrero, sought to appeal the Ninth Circuit decision to the Supreme Court, but she did not take the necessary steps to go forward with an appeal until it was too late. Governor Guerrero did not hire an attorney until a few days before the deadline to file an appeal and after the deadline to file a motion for an extension. In order to get an extension, Guam would have needed to show that there were “extraordinary circumstances” justifying the late filing.
On November 6, Guam’s governor announced that its application for an extension of time was denied. The deadline to file a petition with the Supreme Court has since passed, and no petition was submitted.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision will stand as the last word on the constitutionality of Guam’s plebiscite law. Any future voting laws that Guam seeks to pass will need to conform to the constitutional requirements described in the Ninth Circuit opinion.