President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati (right) with his lawyer Aumua Ming Leung Wai
By Rula Su’a Vaai
APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 13 JULY 2018: The Office of the Attorney General is applying for an overseas judge to hear its appeal against the President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepuleai Atilla Ropati.
Prosecutor, Rexona Titi made the application today after appealing the court decision that discharged Fepulea’i without conviction.
Titi told the court the application for an overseas judge is based on the respondent’s position and status within the judiciary.
“Because of the respondent’s status, it is therefore suitable to appoint someone outside of the judiciary to hear this matter.”
Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu questioned whether there was a case where a judge is prosecuted and a foreign judge is engaged to hear the prosecution, then subsequently if there is an appeal against a conviction or whatever the outcome of the prosecution, another overseas judge has to appoint to hear the case.
His Honour said applying for an overseas judge to hear an appeal in a case like Fepuleai’s case, is very rare in Samoa.
“You seem to be arguing from a general principal of files but, I have been more specific than that, in the situation of this case, has the jurisdiction concerned sought of an overseas judge to hear the case.”
The Chief Justice added that of all the cases that have applied the principals of files, the local judges still dealt with it, and if one local judge is disqualified then another local judge will be appointed to hear. “And I have never heard of a situation where an overseas judge is asked to preside.”
When His Honour asked prosecution whether she is aware of any cases, the prosecution replied that there are cases that she will submit in her submission.
He then cited several cases in New Zealand and Australia with similar submissions asking the prosecution to do her research rather than wasting his time and energy in citing relevant cases related to the matter.
The Chief Justice has postponed the matter for the appellant to file and serve submissions by 2 pm Tuesday next week and for counsel to respond on the issue of foreign judge by Tuesday next week.
Fepulea’i had pleaded guilty to one count of actual bodily harm after assaulting a night watchman during an end of year function.
The Attorney Generals office is appealing the court decision where he was discharged without conviction.