US President Barack Obama [official website] signed a bill [HR 6116, materials] on Friday authorizing the US Supreme Court direct review of decisions made by the Virgin Islands Supreme Court [official websites]. The bill was sponsored by Congresswoman Donna Christensen [official website], the Virgin Islands' congressional delegate. Christensen introduced the bill after the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] issued a report recommending that Virgin Islands high court decisions be reviewed directly by the US Supreme Court. Prior to the direct review bill, the Third Circuit heard appeals from the Virgin Islands Supreme Court. Christensen praised the direct review bill [St. Croix Source report] as a further step toward self-government for the Virgin Islands.
Because the Third Circuit will no longer hears appeals from the Virgin Islands Supreme Court, the Virgin Islands' court system now functions like a state's, as high court decisions are reviewed by the US Supreme Court rather than a federal appeals court. Christensen introduced the bill in July [press release] following the Third Circuit's report. In November the US House of Representatives [official website] passed the bill by unanimous consent [press release]. Two weeks ago the US Senate [official website] also unanimously passed the bill [press release]. After the direct review bill passed the Senate, Christensen touted the bill's historical importance: "All Virgin Islands will look back upon this time with great pride and gratitude for the way in which they laid the foundation for appellate jurisprudence in the territory that is second to none."