Court President takes “special leave”

The President of the Land and Titles Court, Fepulea'i Attila Ropati, has taken “special leave pending criminal charges” filed against him in the Court. 

This was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.), Papali’i John Taimalelagi.

The President is accused of assaulting a Security Officer of the M.J.C.A. during a function towards the end of the last year. The Police have charged him with assault, being armed with a dangerous weapon and causing injury.

According to Papali’i, Fepuleai’s “special leave” became effective last Friday.

“The Chief Justice, his Honor Patu Tiavasu’e Falefatu Sapolu and the Judicial Service Commission accepted the request by the honorable President to take personal leave, pending the criminal case against him,” said Papali’i. 

In his absence, the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, has taken over the role of the President of Land and Titles.

“The Chief Justice will play his role in the criminal, civil cases and will also sit on the Land and Titles cases.”

Papali’i said the added responsibility will be burden to the Chief Justice but he will make the determination on which cases to pass to other Judges and Justices.

Papali’i denied that the Fepulea’i’s absence would affect the work of the Land and Titles Court.

“There is no impact on the cases scheduled before Fepulea’i,” he said. "The Court cases will proceed as scheduled.”

According to Papali’i, more than 300 cases have heard by Fepulea’i since his appointment in August 2016. 

“I am speaking as a Registrar of the Court; Fepulea’i is an asset to the Land and Titles Court and the Ministry of Justice. 

“It is unfortunate what has occurred, however the appointment of Fepulea’i couldn’t have come at a better time. 

“There were significant changes that occurred under his tenure as President of the Land and Titles Court. 

“Since August of 2016, there have been more than 300 cases which Fepulea’i presided over and the three hundred plus is quite a significant number, given the limited time he’s been with the Land and Titles court. 

“Regarding decisions on request from members of the public on various issues specifically for Lands and Titles, Fepulea’i did not shy away from making hard decisions. 

“He also played a huge role in making the necessary changes for easier processes for the convenience of the public, within the Land and Titles Court of first instance, Leave to Appeal Court and the Court of Appeal.”

Since he was charged, the President has been remanded at liberty until his Court appearance on 13 March 2018.

This was confirmed by the Police Superintendent and Media Spokesperson, Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo.

According to sources within the Police, the alleged incident occurred at the compound of the Judiciary during a “party” for the Judges. 

“It’s alleged that the accused struck the security officer (who works at the judiciary compound) on the head twice with a glass bottle,” the source said. 

 “The matter was not reported to the Police immediately and it wasn’t until a few days later when the security officer felt pain on his head and was taken to the hospital." 

 “At the hospital, the doctor found bits and pieces of broken glass on his head and that’s when the matter was reported to the Police.”

Efforts by the Samoa Observer to get a comment from Fepulea’i directly have been unsuccessful. Last month the Samoa Observer met with Fepulea’i.

When he was asked for a comment, however, he declined.

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