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Legal Memorandum: Jurisdiction of the Courts in VI

Issue: Under the laws of the Virgin Islands, what is the jurisdiction of the Territorial Court and the Appellate Division of the District Court?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Jurisdiction; Territorial Court; Appellate Division of the District Court
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 27 F.3d 911; 950 F. Supp. 114; 770 F. Supp. 1038; 982 F. Supp. 1037
Cited Statutes: 4 V.I.C. § 76; 4 V.I.C. § 76(a); 4 V.I.C. § 33
Date: 09/01/2004

The Territorial Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 4 V.I.C. § 76, which gives that court “original jurisdiction in all civil actions regardless of the amount in controversy.”  Id. § 76(a) (Michie 1997).  See V.I. Hous. Auth. v. Coastal Gen. Constr. Servs. Corp., 30 V.I. 417, 27 F.3d 911 (3d Cir. 1994) (subject matter jurisdiction over local civil actions is vested in the Territorial Court). 

The Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands has jurisdiction over appeals from the Territorial Court pursuant to 4 V.I.C. § 33.  See Baron ex rel. Baron v. Rosario, 982 F. Supp. 1037, 37 V.I. 82, 84 (D.V.I. 1997) (under § 33, district court has appellate jurisdiction to review territorial court judgments and orders in all civil actions).  In considering an appeal of an order or judgment of the Territorial Court, the Appellate Division of the District Court has plenary review over conclusions of law; findings of fact are reviewed for clear error.  See Melendez v. Boschulte, 950 F. Supp. 114, 35 V.I. 192, 192 (D.V.I. 1997).  Although an insufficiency in findings of fact is not itself enough to vacate a lower court’s judgment, there must be a sufficient record that will inform the appellate court of the basis of the lower court’s decision regarding the material issues.  Ross v. Bricker, 770 F. Supp. 1038, 26 V.I. 314, 318-19 (D.V.I. 1991). 

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