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Appeals Court May Hear V.I. Citizenship Case


Dec. 30, 2005 — A top U.S. district court judge in the Virgin Islands has asked a higher court to consider the arguments of a former federal marshal who claimed in 1999 that Virgin Islanders are being denied full recognition as United States citizens.
Chief Justice Raymond Finch recently wrote to Judge Anthony Sirica, chief of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, asking him to appoint a judge to consider the legal arguments filed by Krim Ballentine, retired deputy U.S. marshal in 1999. In his case Ballentine argued that Virgin Islanders are being denied the right to vote for the president of the United States and to have a voting member of Congress based on antiquated laws that allowed the country to colonize insular territories. (SeeLawsuit Seeks Full Rights for Virgin Islanders.)
Around the same time, Ballentine said he received notice that his case would be assigned for consideration. It was the first time in six years he had received formal word that he would get his day in court.
"To my surprise they docketed the case and gave me a number. That means they are either going to hear the case and decide the case or they're going to remand it back to the judge and order that they do something," Ballentine said this week.
The case, Ballentine vs. United States, claims that at the time the then-Danish Virgin Islands was purchased by the U.S. government, the people were transferred to the government along with the real estate and were never formally granted self-determination. His case was given an informal airing in court in March 2002, when a student from Yale Law School argued before former District Judge Thomas Moore as part of her work with the Allard K.Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic. (See Judge to Rule on Bid to Throw out Rights Case.)
At that time the student, Elizabeth Brundige, argued that "the United States is in violation of its international law obligations in respect to its relationship with Virgin Islands."
Her arguments, formed in collaboration with Jim Silk, executive director of the Lowenstein clinic, were posted on the Yale Law School Web site. In that posting, the authors wrote that if the courts decide in favor of Ballentine, "It could affect the status of other U.S. territories, such as Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico."
"What I'm asking is one simple question," Ballentine said Thursday. "Either I'm property, as demonstrated under the U.S. Constitution, where Congress has a right to legislate my lifestyle and why I am — or I'm a citizen of the United States, which is strictly out of the control of Congress, as a born natural citizen."
Ballentine pointed out that he was transferred to the territory to continue his duties with the marshal service, returned to the territory voluntarily after that service was performed and came back to live. In the process, Ballentine said, he lost the voting rights he enjoyed as a natural-born U.S. citizen serving the federal government on the U.S. mainland.

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