By Rula Su’a – Vaai
APIA SAMOA – TUESDAY 17 APRIL 2018: Justice Vui Clarence Nelson of the Supreme Court has given leave for lawyer Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo to continue to represent his client, Tagaloasa Filipaina Brown and his nephew Ovaleni Poli in court despite Pa’u’s suspension by the Samoa Law Society.
“I have given you leave Mr. Mulitalo to continue appearing for your clients on this particular case so you are still the counsel on record.”
Mulitalo stood aside from the case and his lawyer colleague Darius Shatahmasebi appeared on his behalf when the matter was called by Justice Vui to address both lawyers on a legal matter relevant to the argument now in court whether it applies to the release of Filipaina and his nephew back to Tafa’igata prison from the Police Station Apia where they are being kept in a cell.
Justice Vui then cited a case in the District Court in Wellington, New Zealand where a lawyer appeared in court witout a gown and an umbrella. The judge asked in court where he was, and the lawyer waved to the judge saying “here am I your honor.”
Mulitalo then thanked Justice Vui for granting him permission to represent his clients in court on the Filipaina and Ovaleni’s case.
Pa’u Mulitalo is allegedly in breach of his restricted practising certificate and barrister sole certificate as per section 45 (5) of the Lawyers and Legal Practice Act 2014. The decision was made in a meeting by the Law Society on the 27 of March 2018, where Pa’u was given the clear breach of section 34 (2) of the Lawyers and Legal Parctice Act.
Section 34 (2) (a) of the LLPA says, “A lawyer who holds a barrister sole practising certificate may only act as counsel and is subject to the following restrictions: (a) may not take money (whether on trust or otherwise from any client).”
In a letter to the Samoa Law Society by Mulitalo’s lawyer, Darius Shatahmasebi stressed their disappointment over the conduct of the Samoa Law Society in handling the matter, that his client was not given much time to respond to allegations, his client was not given time so he can inform his clients about their decision, and that his client was not given time to inform the judges.
The dispute according to Mulitalo is that he had invoiced a client for a large amount of work he had done on behalf of the client for 3 years. He added he never physically received the money but was only invoicing the client for work he had done.
According to Mulitalo as far as Section 34 (2) (a) of the LLPA cited by the Samoa Law Society, “he did not actually take any money from his client but did act as counsel as permitted by the legislation.”
“I know there are lawyers who did the same thing but they are still practising,” he told Talamua. “The Society in my view is very harsh on their decision.”
A Judicial Settlement Conference before Justice Clarke is pending where Mulitalo’s lawyer will present their submission.