P.M. has last laugh

Caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has had the last laugh at the Tautua Samoa Party’s legal action against his administration, which has been struck out.

Asked for his reaction, Tuilaepa said this is what happens when such issues are handled by “lawyers who have small knowledge of the law profession in Samoa.”

According to the Prime Minister, if the lawyer was smart, he would have stopped this politically-motivated lawsuit.

“This is the reason why I made the comments that I would sue them with two coconuts because the matter was useless,” he said. 

“It just reflects badly on the opposition and its leader. That is why I’m shocked because if these people lead the country, then that is the day when the country will go backwards.”

A notice of motion for a Declaratory Judgment and Restraining Orders against the caretaker government of Prime Minister Tuilaepa was filed by the leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II. His lawyer was Leota Suatele Manusegi.

On Thursday, Justice Ema Aitken accepted an application by the Assistant Attorney General, Muriel Lui, for the motion to be struck out. 

In delivering her decision, Justice Aitken ruled that the proceeding was politically motivated. 

“I am in no doubt that the proceedings brought by the Leader of the Opposition are politically motivated, have no prospect of success and amount to an abuse of the processes of this Court,” Justice Aitken ruled.

She also highlighted what she called “valuable lessons” for all counsels and the Law Society.

“Counsel for the Applicant is an employee of the firm Brunt Lawyers,” Justice Aitken said.

“Mr Brunt, to his credit, appeared before the Court when he became aware of the costs’ application. He accepts he was aware from media enquiries that proceedings had been filed, and explained to the Court that he had taken steps to find out what his employees were doing but was unable to discuss this with either Mr. Suatele or Mr. Tiotio. 

“He searched the firm’s documents database and could find no record of the proceedings and therefore took no further steps. It is now clear that the documents filed were not created at the office of Brunt Lawyers, but by Mr. Suatele and/or Mr. Tiotio from some other place.  

“In the circumstances, no order for costs was directed against Mr. Brunt - while he could have done more to enquire into what his employees were up to, I am satisfied that they deliberately chose to conduct these proceedings not from their place of employment but elsewhere. 

“The fact however remains that disingenuous ill-founded proceedings have been pursued involving the Attorney General’s office and this Court in considerable time at the expense of the taxpayer’s of Samoa. 

“Such inexperienced counsel should be closely supervised by their principals, not given free rein to use and abuse the court processes as they see fit. 

“This is particularly so where they have such an obvious personal interest in the proceedings. Mr Brunt, and other principals, need to take all such steps as may be appropriate to provide appropriate supervision of their staff. 

“This is an area where the Law Society should and does have a role - Mr Suatele was practicing on a restricted practicing certificate. I am unaware of whether his conduct on this occasion exceeded that certificate, but direct that a copy of this decision be forwarded to the President of the Law Society so that she and her council members are aware of it. They may wish to take this opportunity to review the scope of restricted certificates and/or develop guidelines (in consultation with the profession) articulating what supervision of junior staff should properly entail. 

“Finally, both Mr. Suatele and Mr. Tiotio should consider carefully whether they wish to continue to hold a practicing certificate. If they do, they should both take immediate steps to upskill themselves, particularly around matters of procedure, and as to their obligations as officers of the court. 

“Should they file such unmeritorious and obviously politically motivated proceedings again, I would have thought were very much at risk of an order for costs against them personally.”

Justice Aitken’s ruling will be published in full on Tuesday’s Samoa Observer.


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