Prominent lawyer, Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe, has been refused a Certificate to practice law in Samoa by the Samoa Law Society.
According to a letter signed by the Samoa Law Society Secretary, Tafailagi Peniamina, obtained by the Samoa Observer, Leulua’iali’i and her associate have not been in compliance with the law.
Dated Wednesday10 February 2016, the decision was made by the Samoa Law Society Council during its meeting on 5 February 2016.
“Due to your continual non – compliance with our Act (Lawyers and Legal Practice Act 2014) specifically section 33 (2),” writes Ms. Peniamina.
“…the council at its meeting of 5th February 2016 discussed the above matter and has resolved not to issue you and your Associate Ms. Annette Woodroffe with practising certificate for this year 2016.”
Ms. Peniamina insisted the Council had repeatedly requested for Leulua’iali’i's compliance where she gave her “verbal assurances” to “address your non compliance with the Act”.
“However to date, you have simply failed to demonstrate to Council that you have taken steps to resolve your non compliance.”
The Secretary assured that the certificates would be issued once Samoa Law receives a “confirmation of compliance with our Act”.
Asked for a comment yesterday, the New Zealand-based Leulua’iali’i was not happy. She rubbished the Council’s decision.
Having practiced law in Samoa for twenty years, she finds it unjust to be denied the right to represent her clients .
“I’m a Samoan citizen who holds a Samoa passport and spend a lot of time in Samoa,” she told the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“I have a house in Samoa and an office as well. Who has the right to deny me of all that? My focus is on the need of my clients and justice for them and they had relied on me for all these years.”
Leulua’iali’i raised concerns about the timing of the decision by the Samoa Law Society, pointing out that she has a few “major” cases next week.
One of them involves Reverend Kerita Reupena who has taken on members of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.
Another one is the fight by one Maria Kirita Pune for a piece of land, involving Samoa Stationery and Books.
The lawyer said she finds it outrageous that the decision is made now.
“No I haven’t broken any law,” she said.
“They rely on a law that is quite unconstitutional and passed last year. I was given notice yesterday (Wednesday) when they knew I am coming next week to represent my clients who are already in Samoa.”
Leulua’iali’i pointed out that her clients live in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
“The injustice and lack of consideration of the rights of the people who rely on the lawyer is a disgrace,” she said.
“And the violation of the duty of their lawyer colleague is a disgrace…I put that aside for the sake of elderly people that I am acting for – all I want is the ability to stand next week and represent the submissions I had worked on for the last two weeks.”
Asked if no one else could stand for her, Leulua’iali’i said her clients refuse to take on another lawyer and insisted she deals with their cases.
“I have done no wrong. All they say is that I’m not sitting in Samoa supervising my desk and people I Act for come from Australia, New Zealand and the States.
“None of my clients have complained if they needed any instructions…I have an office up in Vailima and New Zealand.”
Under the Lawyers and Legal Practice Act 2014 in section 33 it talks about the restriction of rights of solicitors to commence private practice on own account.
In section (33) 2, it says “a lawyer seeking the right to practice law on his or her own account as a barrister and solicitor, whether inpartnership or as sole practitioner, must apply to the Council for the issue of a practising certificate and must satisfy the Council that he or she
• (a)meets the requirements of subsection(1); and
• (b)subject to subsection(3), has resided in Samoa for a period of at least three (3)years immediately prior to his or her application; and
• (c)mustbe present in Samoa to undertake the management of the practice on a permanent basis, or has made arrangements which are satisfactory to the Council, for a lawyer of appropriate experience to be permanently present to manage the practice;and
• (d)has adequate knowledge and experience in handling monies held on trust in accordance with all requirements applying to such moneys andaccounts.