Chief Justice dismisses application for foreign judge

Chief Justice Patū Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu

By Rula Su’a – Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 30 JULY 2018: Chief Justice Patū Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu has dismissed the application from the prosecution for an overseas judge to preside over an appeal against the decision of the District Court that acquitted assault charges against the President of Lands and Titles Court, Fepuleai Atila Ropati.

His Honour did not elaborate on his reasons, saying he will produce his reasons in writing and for counsels in the matter in due course.

“But the conclusion that I have reached is that the application is dismissed and now it is a matter for setting a hearing date for the appeal.”

Patū then appointed Justice Leiataualesā Daryl Clark to preside over the matter.

During court argument, prosecutor Rexona Titi emphasized that it is not justice for the matter to be handled by a Samoan judiciary, because the defendant is a member of the judiciary by virtue of his appointment and his victim is an employee of the Ministry of Justice.

Lawyer Aumua Ming Leung Wai for the defendant strongly opposed the application saying it lacked merit and it tarnishes the integrity of the court.

“The way the application is framed or worded, its effect undermines confidence in the judiciary and invites unnecessary criticism since the application presupposes that our local judges cannot be impartial and are not able to recuse themselves when they see fit to do so,” Aumua argued.

“We also submit that if the grounds raised by the application are genuine, then the same application for an overseas judge should have been made before the District Court.”

Chief Justice then ruled in favour of the defendant.

Lands and Titles Court President remains suspended. He was discharged without conviction by the District Court over an incident at an end of the year function where he allegedly smashed a beer bottle on the head of a night watchman, reportedly drinking alcohol while on the job.