[USC02] 48 USC CHAPTER 12, SUBCHAPTER V: JUDICIAL BRANCH
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48 USC CHAPTER 12, SUBCHAPTER V: JUDICIAL BRANCH
From Title 48—TERRITORIES AND INSULAR POSSESSIONSCHAPTER 12—VIRGIN ISLANDS 1954

SUBCHAPTER V—JUDICIAL BRANCH

§1611. District Court of Virgin Islands; local courts; jurisdiction; practice and procedure

(a) District Court of Virgin Islands; local courts

The judicial power of the Virgin Islands shall be vested in a court of record designated the "District Court of the Virgin Islands" established by Congress, and in such appellate court and lower local courts as may have been or may hereafter be established by local law.

(b) Jurisdiction

The legislature of the Virgin Islands may vest in the courts of the Virgin Islands established by local law jurisdiction over all causes in the Virgin Islands over which any court established by the Constitution and laws of the United States does not have exclusive jurisdiction. Such jurisdiction shall be subject to the concurrent jurisdiction conferred on the District Court of the Virgin Islands by section 1612(a) and (c) of this title.

(c) Practice and procedure

The rules governing the practice and procedure of the courts established by local law and those prescribing the qualifications and duties of the judges and officers thereof, oaths and bonds, and the times and places of holding court shall be governed by local law or the rules promulgated by those courts.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §21, 68 Stat. 506; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §702, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1737.)

Amendments

1984Pub. L. 98–454 designated existing provisions as subsec. (a), inserted "established by Congress" before "and in such" and substituted "appellate court and lower local courts as may have been or may hereafter be established by local law" for "court or courts of inferior jurisdiction as have been or may hereafter be established by local law", and added subsecs. (b) and (c).

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.

§1612. Jurisdiction of District Court

(a) Jurisdiction

The District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have the jurisdiction of a District Court of the United States, including, but not limited to, the diversity jurisdiction provided for in section 1332 of title 28 and that of a bankruptcy court of the United States. The District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal and civil proceedings in the Virgin Islands with respect to the income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands, regardless of the degree of the offense or of the amount involved, except the ancillary laws relating to the income tax enacted by the legislature of the Virgin Islands. Any act or failure to act with respect to the income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands which would constitute a criminal offense described in chapter 75 of subtitle F of title 26 shall constitute an offense against the government of the Virgin Islands and may be prosecuted in the name of the government of the Virgin Islands by the appropriate officers thereof in the District Court of the Virgin Islands without the request or the consent of the United States attorney for the Virgin Islands, notwithstanding the provisions of section 1617 of this title.

(b) General jurisdiction; limitations

In addition to the jurisdiction described in subsection (a) the District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have general original jurisdiction in all causes in the Virgin Islands the jurisdiction over which is not then vested by local law in the local courts of the Virgin Islands: Provided, That the jurisdiction of the District Court of the Virgin Islands under this subsection shall not extend to civil actions wherein the matter in controversy does not exceed the sum or value of $500, exclusive of interest and costs; to criminal cases wherein the maximum punishment which may be imposed does not exceed a fine of $100 or imprisonment for six months, or both; and to violations of local police and executive regulations. The courts established by local law shall have jurisdiction over the civil actions, criminal cases, and violations set forth in the preceding proviso. In causes brought in the district court solely on the basis of this subsection, the district court shall be considered a court established by local law for the purposes of determining the availability of indictment by grand jury or trial by jury.

(c) Criminal offenses; concurrent jurisdiction with local courts

The District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of the Virgin Islands established by local law over those offenses against the criminal laws of the Virgin Islands, whether felonies or misdemeanors or both, which are of the same or similar character or part of, or based on, the same act or transaction or two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting part of a common scheme or plan, if such act or transaction or acts or transactions also constitutes or constitute an offense or offenses against one or more of the statutes over which the District Court of the Virgin Islands has jurisdiction pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §22, 68 Stat. 506; Pub. L. 95–598, title III, §336(a), Nov. 6, 1978, 92 Stat. 2680; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §703(a), title X, §1001, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1738, 1745; Pub. L. 99–514, §2, Oct. 22, 1986, 100 Stat. 2095.)

References in Text

This chapter, referred to in text, was in the original "this Act", meaning act July 22, 1954, ch. 558, 68 Stat. 497, as amended, known as the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, which is classified principally to this chapter. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title note set out under section 1541 of this title and Tables.

Amendments

1986—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 99–514 substituted "Internal Revenue Code of 1986" for "Internal Revenue Code of 1954", which for purposes of codification was translated as "title 26" thus requiring no change in text.

1984Pub. L. 98–454 amended section generally, designating existing provisions as subsec. (a), substituted provisions that District Court would have all jurisdiction of a district court of the United States, including diversity jurisdiction and bankruptcy jurisdiction as well as civil and criminal matters regarding the income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands for former provisions conferring general jurisdiction on the court and providing for the transfer of cases, repealed section 336 of Pub. L. 95–598, which had amended this section, and added subsecs. (b) and (c).

1978Pub. L. 95–598 inserted "and a bankruptcy court" after "jurisdiction of a district court".

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.

Effective Date of 1978 Amendment

Pub. L. 95–598, title IV, §402(e), Nov. 6, 1978, 92 Stat. 2682, which provided a prospective effective date for the amendment of this section by section 336(a) of Pub. L. 95–598, was repealed by Pub. L. 98–454, title X, §1001, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1745.

Jurisdiction of District Court Over Pending Cases

Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §703(b), Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1738, provided that: "The provisions of this section [amending this section] shall not result in the loss of jurisdiction of the District Court of the Virgin Islands over any complaint or proceeding pending in it on the day preceding the effective date of this amendatory Act [see Effective Date of 1984 Amendment note set out under section 1424 of this title] and such complaint and proceeding may be pursued to final determination in the District Court of the Virgin Islands, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Supreme Court, notwithstanding the provisions of this amendatory Act [Pub. L. 98–454]."

§1613. Relations between courts of United States and courts of Virgin Islands; review by United States Court of Appeals for Third Circuit; reports to Congress; rules

The relations between the courts established by the Constitution or laws of the United States and the courts established by local law with respect to appeals, certiorari, removal of causes, the issuance of writs of habeas corpus, and other matters or proceedings shall be governed by the laws of the United States pertaining to the relations between the courts of the United States, including the Supreme Court of the United States, and the courts of the several States in such matters and proceedings.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §23, 68 Stat. 506; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §704, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1739; Pub. L. 103–437, §17(a)(4), Nov. 2, 1994, 108 Stat. 4595; Pub. L. 112–226, §1, Dec. 28, 2012, 126 Stat. 1606.)

Amendments

2012Pub. L. 112–226 substituted a period for ": Provided, That for the first fifteen years following the establishment of the appellate court authorized by section 1611(a) of this title, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shall have jurisdiction to review by writ of certiorari all final decisions of the highest court of the Virgin Islands from which a decision could be had. The Judicial Council of the Third Circuit shall submit reports to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives at intervals of five years following the establishment of such appellate court as to whether it has developed sufficient institutional traditions to justify direct review by the Supreme Court of the United States from all such final decisions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shall have jurisdiction to promulgate rules necessary to carry out the provisions of this section." at end.

1994Pub. L. 103–437 substituted "Natural Resources" for "Interior and Insular Affairs" before "of the House".

1984Pub. L. 98–454 amended section generally, substituting provisions relating to the relations between local law courts and already established courts under the Constitution or laws of the United States with respect to appeals, certiorari, etc. and providing that the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shall have jurisdiction to review all final decisions from the highest court of the Virgin Islands for fifteen years after the appellate court is established for former provisions relating to the jurisdiction of inferior courts, transfer of actions, status as committing court, bail and rules.

Effective Date of 2012 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 112–226 applicable to cases commenced on or after Dec. 28, 2012, see section 3 of Pub. L. 112–226, set out as an Effective Date note under section 1260 of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure.

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.

§1613a. Appellate jurisdiction of District Court; procedure; review by United States Court of Appeals for Third Circuit; rules; appeals to appellate court

(a) Appellate jurisdiction of District Court

Prior to the establishment of the appellate court authorized by section 1611(a) of this title, the District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have such appellate jurisdiction over the courts of the Virgin Islands established by local law to the extent now or hereafter prescribed by local law: Provided, That the legislature may not preclude the review of any judgment or order which involves the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, including this chapter, or any authority exercised thereunder by an officer or agency of the Government of the United States, or the conformity of any law enacted by the legislature of the Virgin Islands or of any order or regulation issued or action taken by the executive branch of the government of the Virgin Islands with the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, including this chapter, or any authority exercised thereunder by an officer or agency of the United States.

(b) Appellate division of District Court; quorum; presiding judge; designation of judges; decisions

Appeals to the District Court of the Virgin Islands shall be heard and determined by an appellate division of the court consisting of three judges, of whom two shall constitute a quorum. The chief judge of the district court shall be the presiding judge of the appellate division and shall preside therein unless disqualified or otherwise unable to act. The other judges who are to sit in the appellate division at any session shall be designated by the presiding judge from among the judges who are serving on, or are assigned to, the district court from time to time pursuant to section 1614(a) of this title: Provided, That no more than one of them may be a judge of a court established by local law. The concurrence of two judges shall be necessary to any decision by the appellate division of the district court on the merits of an appeal, but the presiding judge alone may make any appropriate orders with respect to an appeal prior to the hearing and determination thereof on the merits and may dismiss an appeal for want of jurisdiction or failure to take or prosecute it in accordance with the applicable law or rules of procedure. Appeals pending in the district court on the effective date of this Act 1 shall be heard and determined by a single judge.

(c) United States Court of Appeals for Third Circuit; jurisdiction; appeals; rules

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district court on appeal from the courts established by local law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shall have jurisdiction to promulgate rules necessary to carry out the provisions of this subsection.

(d) Appeals to appellate court; effect on District Court

Upon the establishment of the appellate court provided for in section 1611(a) of this title all appeals from the decisions of the courts of the Virgin Islands established by local law not previously taken must be taken to that appellate court. The establishment of the appellate court shall not result in the loss of jurisdiction of the district court over any appeal then pending in it. The rulings of the district court on such appeals may be reviewed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and in the Supreme Court notwithstanding the establishment of the appellate court.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §23A, as added Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §705, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1739.)

References in Text

This chapter, referred to in subsec. (a), was in the original "this Act", meaning act July 22, 1954, ch. 558, 68 Stat. 497, as amended, known as the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, which is classified principally to this chapter. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title note set out under section 1541 of this title and Tables.

The effective date of this Act, referred to in subsec. (b), probably means the effective date of title VII of Pub. L. 98–454, which is 90 days after Oct. 5, 1984, and which enacted this section.

Effective Date

Section effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as an Effective Date of 1984 Amendment note under section 1424 of this title.

1 See References in Text note below.

§1614. Judges of District Court

(a) Appointment; tenure; removal; chief judge; compensation

The President shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint two judges for the District Court of the Virgin Islands, who shall hold office for terms of ten years and until their successors are chosen and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President for cause. The judge of the district court who is senior in continuous service and who otherwise qualifies under section 136(a) of title 28 shall be the chief judge of the court. The salary of a judge of the district court shall be at the rate prescribed for judges of the United States district courts. Whenever it is made to appear that such an assignment is necessary for the proper dispatch of the business of the district court, the chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of the United States may assign a judge of a court of record of the Virgin Islands established by local law, or a circuit or district judge of the Third Judicial Circuit, or a recalled senior judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, or the Chief Justice of the United States may assign any other United States circuit or district judge with the consent of the judge so assigned and of the chief judge of his circuit, to serve temporarily as a judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands. The compensation of the judges of the district court and the administrative expenses of the court shall be paid from appropriations made for the judiciary of the United States.

(b) Criminal offenses; procedure; definitions; indictment and information

Where appropriate, the provisions of part II of title 18 and of title 28 and, notwithstanding the provisions of rule 7(a) and of rule 54(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure relating to the requirement of indictment and to the prosecution of criminal offenses in the Virgin Islands by information, respectively, the rules of practice heretofore or hereafter promulgated and made effective by the Congress or the Supreme Court of the United States pursuant to titles 11, 18, and 28 shall apply to the district court and appeals therefrom: Provided, That the terms "Attorney for the government" and "United States attorney" as used in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, shall, when applicable to causes arising under the income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands, mean the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands or such other person or persons as may be authorized by the laws of the Virgin Islands to act therein: Provided further, That in the district court all criminal prosecutions under the laws of the United States, under local law under section 1612(c) of this title, and under the income tax laws applicable to the Virgin Islands may be had by indictment by grand jury or by information: Provided further, That an offense which has been investigated by or presented to a grand jury may be prosecuted by information only by leave of court or with the consent of the defendant. All criminal prosecutions arising under local law which are tried in the district court pursuant to section 1612(b) of this title shall continue to be had by information, except such as may be required by the local law to be prosecuted by indictment by grand jury.

(c) United States marshal

The Attorney General shall appoint a United States marshal for the Virgin Islands, to whose office the provisions of chapter 37 of title 28 shall apply.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §24, 68 Stat. 506; Pub. L. 85–851, §7, Aug. 28, 1958, 72 Stat. 1095; Pub. L. 91–272, §3(b), June 2, 1970, 84 Stat. 296; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §706(a), (b), Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1740.)

References in Text

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, referred to in subsec. (b), are set out in the Appendix to Title 18, Crimes and Criminal Procedure.

Codification

In subsec. (c), "chapter 37 of title 28" substituted for "chapter 33 of title 28" on authority of Pub. L. 89–554, §7(b), Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 631, section 4(c) of which revised part II of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure.

Amendments

1984—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 98–454, §706(a), substituted provisions extending the term of a judge of the district court from eight to ten years, further substituted "of a court of the Virgin Islands established by local law," for "a judge of the municipal court of the Virgin Islands," in third sentence, and inserted provisions regarding the designation of the chief judge.

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 98–454, §706(b), substituted provisions relating to criminal procedure in the district courts for former provisions which related to the chief judge of the district court and which are now set out in subsec. (a).

1970—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 91–272 designated existing provisions as subsec. (a), increased from one to two the number of district judges, added judges of the municipal court of the Virgin Islands to the list of judges from which may be drawn temporary judges for the district court, and transferred to subsec. (c) provisions covering the appointment of a United States marshal for the Virgin Islands.

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 91–272 added subsec. (b).

Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 91–272 added subsec. (c), the substance of which was formerly contained in subsec. (a).

1958Pub. L. 85–851 substituted "the Attorney General shall appoint a United States marshal" for "the Attorney General shall, as heretofore, appoint a marshal and one deputy marshal".

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.

Chief Judge; District Court; Determination and Qualifications

Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §706(c), Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1741, provided that: "The provisions of subsection (a) of this section [amending this section] regarding the determination and qualifications of the chief judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands shall not apply to a person serving as chief judge of said court on the effective date of this Act [see Effective Date of 1984 Amendment note set out under section 1424 of this title]."

Extension of Term of District Judges

Extension of term of district court judges to ten years applicable to judges holding office on Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1004 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424b of this title.

Present Incumbent

Enactment of this chapter as not affecting term of office of judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands in office on the date of its enactment, see Effective Date note set out under section 1541 of this title.

Resignation and Retirement of Judges

Resignation and retirement of judges in the Territories and possessions, see section 373 of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure.

§1615. Judicial divisions

The Virgin Islands consists of two judicial divisions; the Division of Saint Croix, comprising the island of Saint Croix and adjacent islands and cays, and the Division of Saint Thomas and Saint John, comprising the islands of Saint Thomas and Saint John and adjacent islands and cays.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §25, 68 Stat. 507; Pub. L. 95–598, title III, §336(b), Nov. 6, 1978, 92 Stat. 2680; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §707, title X, §1001, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1741, 1745; Pub. L. 101–219, title II, §203, Dec. 12, 1989, 103 Stat. 1874.)

Amendments

1989Pub. L. 101–219 struck out provision that court for the Division of Saint Croix be held in Christiansted and for the Division of Saint Thomas and Saint John at Charlotte Amalie.

1984Pub. L. 98–454 amended section generally, inserting provisions setting forth places for the holding of court of each judicial division and striking out provisions relating to the applicability of procedural rules and prosecutions by information and indictment, which are now covered under section 1614 of this title, and repealed section 336 of Pub. L. 95–598 which had amended this section.

1978Pub. L. 95–598 substituted "section 2075 of title 28 in cases under title 11" for "section 53 of title 11 in bankruptcy cases".

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.

Effective Date of 1978 Amendment

Pub. L. 95–598, title IV, §402(e), Nov. 6, 1978, 92 Stat. 2682, which provided a prospective effective date for the amendment of this section by section 336(b) of Pub. L. 95–598, was repealed by Pub. L. 98–454, title X, §1001, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1745.

§1616. Trial by jury

All criminal cases originating in the district court shall be tried by jury upon demand by the defendant or by the Government. If no jury is demanded the case shall be tried by the judge of the district court without a jury, except that the judge may, on his own motion, order a jury for the trial of any criminal action. The legislature may provide for trial in misdemeanor cases by a jury of six qualified persons.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §26, 68 Stat. 507; Pub. L. 85–851, §8, Aug. 28, 1958, 72 Stat. 1095.)

Amendments

1958Pub. L. 85–851 substituted requirement of jury trial upon demand by defendant or Government for prohibition against denial to any person on demand of either party.

§1617. United States attorney; appointment; duties

The President shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint a United States attorney for the Virgin Islands to whose office the provisions of chapter 35 of title 28, shall apply. Except as otherwise provided by law it shall be the duty of the United States attorney to prosecute all offenses against the United States and to conduct all legal proceedings, civil and criminal, to which the Government of the United States is a party in the district court and in the courts established by local law. He shall also prosecute in the district court in the name of the government of the Virgin Islands all offenses against the laws of the Virgin Islands which are cognizable by that court unless, at his request or with his consent, the prosecution of any such case is conducted by the attorney general of the Virgin Islands. The United States attorney may, when requested by the Governor or the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, conduct any other legal proceedings to which the government of the Virgin Islands is a party in the district court or the courts established by local law.

(July 22, 1954, ch. 558, §27, 68 Stat. 507; Pub. L. 85–851, §9, Aug. 28, 1958, 72 Stat. 1095; Pub. L. 86–289, §4, Sept. 16, 1959, 73 Stat. 569; Pub. L. 92–24, June 2, 1971, 85 Stat. 76; Pub. L. 98–454, title VII, §708, Oct. 5, 1984, 98 Stat. 1741.)

Amendments

1984Pub. L. 98–454 substituted "courts established by local law" for "inferior courts of the Virgin Islands" wherever appearing and struck out provisions relating to vacancies in the office of United States attorney for the Virgin Islands.

1971Pub. L. 92–24 substituted "chapter 35" for "chapter 31" and struck out "except that the Attorney General shall not appoint more than one assistant United States attorney for the Virgin Islands" after "shall apply".

1959Pub. L. 86–289 substituted provisions making chapter 31 of title 28 applicable to United States attorney and by provisions specifying his duties, for provisions which prescribed his term of office and provided for his compensation, provided for appointment and compensation of his assistant and employees, and provided that he or his assistant conduct all legal proceedings in which the United States Government or the government of the Virgin Islands is a party in the District Court and inferior courts.

1958Pub. L. 85–851 substituted "United States attorney" for "district attorney" wherever appearing.

Effective Date of 1984 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 98–454 effective on ninetieth day following Oct. 5, 1984, see section 1005 of Pub. L. 98–454, set out as a note under section 1424 of this title.