Chief Justice Patu Falefatu Sapolu seated middle of front row with the Judges of the Court after today’s farewell service.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 23 APRIL 2019: Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu has bid farewell to the Judiciary after 43 years of service.
Twenty seven of those years as the Chief Justice of Samoa.
Today, the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration and members of the Judiciary came together to farewell him in a Valedictory sitting of the Court for his Honour.
Speaking at the special sitting was the Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff and the President of the Samoa Law Society Leiataualesa Komisi Koria.
Patu has been at the helm of the Samoan Judiciary since 1992 as a Chief Justice, leading and stewarding the Judiciary forum.
His Judiciary career
Patu is a Marist old boy and was dux at both the Marist School Mulivai and St Joseph’s College in his final years.
He went to Auckland University in New Zealand where he graduated Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts (Honors), and a Law Degree in 1975.
Returning to Samoa, he worked as a legal officer at the Office of the Attorney General and. appointed the Secretary of Justice in 1982.
He later left the public service and set up the Sapolu Law Firm he shared with his lawyer sister Katalaina Lussick.
Patu returned to the public service and took up the post of Attorney General in 1984 to 1991.
For 15 years, he served at Bar. He also served as Court Registrar for 1 year and was appointed on several occasions as Temporary Magistrate, and Acting Chief Justice during his second term as Attorney General.
In1992, Patu was appointed Chief Justice, the second Samoan to hold the position.
Changes to the Judiciary System
Lemalu noted that during Patu’s tenure at CJ, changes have been made to the Judiciary system, highlighting several cases and decisions Patu made that helped develop the Judiciary system.
Some of the cases he presided over led to the establishment of additional special Courts such as the Alcohol & Drugs Court, Family Court, Family Violence Court, Youth Court, and the Coroners Court.
“It can be said your overall contribution to the Judiciary of Samoa have in fact included access to justice for all of Samoans,” said Lemalu.
The President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria acknowledge Patu’s contribution to the Samoan legal profession.
“Knowledge and understanding of the law will become part of your legacy left behind for the society, a remarkable career,” said Leiataualesa.
“Your Honour, Samoa’s jurisprudent will forever be characterized by the knowledge and wisdom you passionately and carefully handed down during your time on the bench.”
My Strength & Faith in God Guided Me through
Patu was sworn in as Chief Justice 20 July 1992 by the later Head of State Malietoa Tanumafili 11.
“I beseech God for his blessing and guidance and that has been my source of strength and inspiration during my tenure at CJ. The theme of my address then was based on the concluding word in the Judiciary oath ‘So Help Me God.”
He thanked and acknowledged the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana for trusting him to take on the post.
Patu said it took several weeks for him to make a decision whether to accept or not, but after discussion with his mother and siblings, he took it.
Patu said the late Reverend Oka Fauolo thought differently and said he should have been a pastor and not a lawyer.
He acknowledges the Judiciary, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, his family, wife for the support.
Patu was aware of the legal needs of the country and foremost the need to develop the jurisdiction of Samoa especially the civil law.
“I was also conscience that if I did not succeed as a Chief Justice, it may become difficult to appoint another Samoan as Chief Justice. No doubt about the importance and magnitude of the task, but faith in God and the trust of Tofilau, I was confident that I was on solid ground to take the challenge offered to me,” said Patu.