Leota Matautia Raymond Schuster is Samoa’s newest District Court Judge.
The 51-year-old father from Vaoala, Malifa and Alafua took his oath before Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu in the Supreme Court yesterday.
The joyous occasion was well attended by his families, friends, colleagues and officials of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration.
Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papalii Niko Lee Hang and Member of Parliament of Gagaifomauga #3, La'auli Leuatea Schmidt were among the people who witnessed the swearing in.
Chief Justice Patu congratulated Judge Leota, reminding him that everyone is equal under the law.
“It does not discriminate but treats the rich and poor, strong and weak, equally,” said Chief Justice Patu.
Judge Leota was reminded his oath is to serve Samoa in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
“As a Judge, you no longer have human feelings, but stand independently under the guidance of God,” said C.J. Patu.
“Being a judge is no easy work because there will be times that your human feelings will debate with what is right, but you must always do the right thing.”
Chief Justice Patu encouraged Judge Leota to let God be his helper.
“You will need God’s help in decision making and doing the right thing,” he said.
“Let Him be the bright star that will lead your every way and let Him be your guardian. He will never leave nor forsake you, but He will guide you when you go out and when you come in.”
Judge Leota said he was humbled by the appointment. He also revealed that he had been asked to take up the role last year but he was not ready.
“I didn’t think I was the right person for the role, hence why I didn’t accept it at that time,” Judge Leota said.
“But then I thought about it hard and long and so I decided that this is probably my calling from God and if it is from Him then I shouldn’t be stubborn, but to simply accept it.”
He dedicated the moment to his hardworking parents, Saunoamalii Sonny Schuster and Theresa Schuster.
“That’s where it all started through the hard work and the dedication of our parents that we are able to be where we are at today.
“So all glory to God for His blessings and I am thankful that my parents are still around to witness this new journey that I have been blessed with.”
Judge Leota said there is also a big difference between a lawyer and a Judge.
“Being a judge means we cannot take sides, we have to do what is right and then it comes down to transparency and accountability.
“As a judge, we are not defending one person, we are seeking the truth and that means we have to make our decisions based on the truth and nothing else, most especially we have to ensure that justice is served.”
Judge Leota is the fourth child of Saunoamaalii and Theresa’s seven children
He holds a Bachelor of Law from the University of the South Pacific, an Advanced Diploma in Public Sector Management from the University of New England, Australia.
In 1998, he worked at the Office of the Attorney General State as a solicitor. In 2006, he was the Assistant Attorney General. In March 2008, he was at the Raymond Schuster Law Office until 2012 when it was extended to become the Schuster Betham Annandale Law Firm.
He hails from the villages of Vaoala, Malifa and Alafua. He is married to Lina Tone-Schuster and together they have three children.