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Department of Justice Views on the Proposed Constitution Drafted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands

Date of Issuance:

The following memorandum opinion was initially drafted in the Office of Legal Counsel at the request of the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs. It analyzes several features of the proposed constitution of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The President attached a copy of this memorandum to his letter transmitting the proposed constitution to Congress, along with his comments, under Public Law 94-584.

Because it was difficult to discern a legitimate governmental purpose that would be rationally advanced by provisions conferring legal advantages on certain groups defined by place and timing of birth, timing of residency, or ancestry, the memorandum opinion recommended that those provisions be removed from the proposed constitution.

The memorandum opinion concluded that the ten- and fifteen-year residence requirements for governors, lieutenant governors, and judges of the U.S. Virgin Islands raise constitutional concerns and recommended that consideration be given to shortening the duration of these requirements.

The memorandum opinion further concluded that the provision concerning territorial waters and marine resources appeared to be inconsistent with governing federal law and recommended that it be revised to remove any inconsistency and to make clear its recognition of Congress’s plenary control over these matters.

Updated February 2, 2021