Grover Rees, III

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Grover Joseph Rees, III​

United States Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of East Timor
In office
December 2002​ – 2006​
Preceded by Shari Villarosa​
Succeeded by W. Gary Gray​

Born October 11, 1951​
New Orleans, Louisiana

Reared in Breaux Bridge in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana Resident of Lafayette, Louisiana

Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Divorced​

(2) Landai Nguyen Rees​

Children From first marriage

Grover J. Reese, IV
​Grover, II, and Patricia Byrne Rees

Alma mater Yale University

Paul M. Hebert Law Center at
Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge)​

Occupation Attorney; Diplomat
Law professor
Religion Roman Catholic

Grover Joseph Rees, III (born October 11, 1951), an attorney from Lafayette, Louisiana, who from 2002 to 2006 was the United States Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, known as Eat Timor. He presented his credentials to East Timorese President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão in December 2002, following his nomination by then U.S. President George W. Bush and confirmation the previous month by the United States Senate.[1]

East Timor declared its independence from Portugal in 1975. East Timor is located north of Australia, the two countries separated by the Timor Sea.


Rees was born in New Orleans, the first of twelve children[2] to a Roman Catholic couple, Grover Joseph Rees, II (1927-2008), and the former Patricia Byrne (1927-2018).[3][4] His father was in the military; so the family traveled around a great deal. His paternal grandparents, Grover Rees, I (1891-1994), and the former Consuelo Broussard (1889-2003, both of whom lived past the age of one hundred, made their home in Breaux Bridge in St. Martin Parish,[5] and Rees spent many of his summers there. In 1976, the senior Rees, a graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and the Harvard Law Center, penned A Narrative History of Breaux Bridge, Once Called 'La Pointe.'[6]

Rees, III, obtained his undergraduate degree from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, at which he served in the Yale Political Union. In 1978, Reese graduated from LSU's Paul M. Hebert Law Center, at which he was a member of the academic honor society Order of the Coif. From 1978 to 1979, he was a law clerk to then-Associate Justice Albert Tate, Jr., of the Louisiana Supreme Court.[7] Rees speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Samoan.​[2]

Defending human rights

Rees was Chief Justice of the High Court of American Samoa from 1986 to 1991, having served under appointment of both Presidents Ronald W. Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush.[8] He is also a former legislative aide to Representative Christopher H. Smith, a Republican from Trenton, New Jersey, and a leader since 1981 of anti-abortion forces in the United States House of Representatives. Rees shares Smith's anti-abortion position.​

Rees furthermore is a strong defender of human rights in foreign policy. From 1995 to 2001, he was the staff director and chief counsel of the U.S. House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights.[7] American Samoa, where Rees was stationed for five years, became a landmark case in the United States' prosecution of human trafficking — the international practice of forcing people into servitude, slavery, peonage, child labor, or the sex industry.​ In that role, Rees warned that anyone who exploits workers would face legal consequences in the United States. "If you're going to traffic women and men to slave-like situations, you better not do it in a place under the American flag," he said. As a congressional aide, Rees helped to draft the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

He was general counsel to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, then part of the United States Department of Justice, from 1991 to 1993,[9] in the administration of the first President Bush. He stayed at the INS briefly after the Democrat Bill Clinton assumed the presidency, but when Clinton "turned back a boatload of Chinese refugees in California and sent them back to China, the president had Joseph's resignation on his desk the next day," said his mother, Patricia Rees, who added that Rees "has always been passionate about standing up for the rights of oppressed peoples."

The Elián González affair

​ His view of human rights led Rees to support a full hearing to determine whether Elián González (born 1993) should remain with relatives in Miami, Florida, or be returned to communist Cuba.[10] Rees decried the pre-dawn raid that resulted in Elián's capture by immigration agents. The whole case was, he said, a triumph for Cuban President Fidel Castro. "Castro has actually been able to turn the Elián issue to his advantage across a broad field of ways." When asked why the nominally Republican Congress did not rise up against the seizure of Elián, presumably against the boy's wishes, to communist governance, Reese cited public opinion polls: "Had the polls suggested that 70 or 80 percent of the people were appalled by the pre-dawn raid in Miami, you would have seen a different reaction in Congress."​[11]

Rees said that he was stunned when he learned that the number of federal agents who participated in "Operation Reunion," the raid to seize Elián from his great uncle's home in Miami, included a total of 151 persons, 131 from the INS and 20 from the United States Marshal's office.​[11]

Optimism for the future of East Timor

​ In his first speech as ambassador, Rees said that the United States is pleased with the level of freedom and democracy achieved thus far in the Asian country. He urged greater involvement by the Timorese people in their new government. The goal of the leadership of East Timor, he said, must be to maintain security, promote democracy, and guarantee stability so as to attract critically needed foreign investments.

Rees worked on the Timor issue for several years prior to his appointment as ambassador. In 1998, four days after the fall of President Suharto, he visited President Gusmão at the Cipinang prison in Jakarta, as part of Congressman Chris Smith’s delegation. Rees again visited Gusmão when the latter was transferred to house arrest in Salemba in 1999.​

Rees expresses optimism for the future of East Timor, a country that, he said, is "rising from the ashes." Rees said that he visited the island in 1996, while it was struggling with the issue of self-determination after some two decades of oppression by Indonesia, and again in 2000, just after a vote for independence.​ East Timor was in 1996 "nothing but smoking ruins, but now there's a democratically elected president and parliament. Now there is hope," Rees predicted. The new Timorese government "is an experiment in an area of the world that for the most part has not embraced democratic forms of government. … It's like being at ground zero during the birth of a nation, like being in Boston in 1776," he said.

Law professor and author

​ Prior to his move to Washington in 1986, Rees had served for seven years as an assistant professor at the University of Texas Law School in Austin. He wrote numerous law review articles, one of which declared the 1979 congressional vote to extend ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment for three additional years to be unconstitutional.[12] In that the ERA was not added to the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court never ruled on the constitutionality of the extension. Reese said that many judges insert their personal legal and political views in their decisions.​[2]

In another law article, Rees argued for traditional constitutional law, rather than judge-made law in which the jurists insert their personal legal and political views into their decisions.[2] ​ Rees was a special counsel to then Attorney General Edwin Meese, III, in 1986. He worked on judicial appointments. He attempted to find conservative judges who would overturn the liberal legacies of the Earl Warren and the Warren E. Burger courts[2] but would do so without their own "activist" agenda.

As he was finishing law school, Rees published a short campaign biography of then U.S. Representative David C. Treen, a fellow Republican who was then seeking the Louisiana governorship for a second time. In 1979, Treen was elected Louisiana's first Republican governor since Reconstruction: he served from 1980 to 1984 during the interregnum of Democrat Edwin Edwards. Rees titled his book Dave Treen of Louisiana. Treen had also been Louisiana's first Republican congressman (1973–1980) of the 20th century. Rees was a press assistant to Treen in 1973 and a member of the Young Republicans while he was in college.[13]

Congressional campaign, 2016

In 2016, Reese ran for Louisiana's 3rd congressional district seat in the U.S. House and signed a written commitment to oppose federal tax hikes.[14]Another well-known Republican eliminated in the primary was conservative former state Representative Brett Geymann of Lake Charles. Victory in a runoff went to fellow Republican Clay Higgins, who defeated his remaining rival, Moderate Republican Scott Angelle, an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate the previous year.[15][16]


  1. U. S. Wants Stability in Timor-Leste: The new United States Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Grover Joseph Rees, III, on Monday presented his credentials to President Gusmão. East Timor Press Review (December 10, 2002). Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Hon. Grover Joseph Rees, III. The Federalist Society. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  3. Maj. Grover Joseph Rees, Jr.. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  4. Grover Rees. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  5. Grover Joseph Reese, I. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  6. Grover Reese, I (January 1, 1976). A Narrative History of Breaux Bridge, Once Called 'La Pointe. Retrieved on May 14, 2020. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rees, III, Grover J.. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  8. Grover Rees, III. C-SPAN (November 7, 1987). Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  9. East Timor Ambassador Addresses LSU Law Students. Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center (August 3, 2006). Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  10. The Elián González Affair:The Fight for a Five-Year-Old. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Byron York (June 2000). Illegal Elián. The American Spectator through Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  12. Grover Rees, III (Spring 1977). Rescinding Ratification of Proposed Constitutional Amendments - A Question for the Court. Louisiana Law Review, Vol. 37 No. 4. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  13. Dave Treen of Louisiana. Retrieved on May 14, 2020. 
  14. Ambassador Grover Rees, III, signs written commitment to oppose tax hikes. (January 22, 2016). Retrieved on May 14, 2020.
  15. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns (Third congressional district), November 8 and December 10, 2016.
  16. Ken Stickney (January 22, 2016). Sidelined Angelle lets others in race. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Retrieved on May 14, 2020.

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