Justice Chief defends number of Assessors

The Chief Executive Officer of the  Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papali’i John Taimalelagi, has defended the decision to hire 20 additional assessors for the Land and Titles Court in Savai’i.  

Questions have surfaced after 21 new assessors for the Land and Titles Court in Upolu were sworn in. Critics have argued that there is no need to have that many Assessors for Savaii since the bulk of the cases are handled in Upolu.

But Papali’i said the move is necessary and that they plan to swear in 20 assessors for Savai’i in May. 

 “The aim is to have as many Assessors as we can so that they may be able to work and make decisions in the Lands and Titles Court,” he said.

“This is why Chief Justice Patu decided that it is time to have more Assessors."

“During each individual case, Assessors will be selected from this pool of 20 assessors and the reason for the large number is to assure that there is a mandatory quorum so that Court cases proceed." 

“We consider the fact there is a possibility that some Assessors will recuse themselves due to conflict of interest or for any other reason they are unable to attend, we have this pool to select from and again to ensure the cases are not put on hold while the Court seeks for other assessors to sit the case.”

“Furthermore, I want to make it clear the assessors are paid per sitting and they work part time." 

“They are not full time employees and they will only receive an allowance if they sit a case.” 

Papali’i declined to divulge the amount of the allowance paid to the assessors. 

During the swearing in of the new assessors last month, Chief Justice Patu Falefatu Tiavasu’e Sapolu reminded the new assessors that their independence and honesty in making decisions is vital. “These are essential to maintaining the belief and confidence of the people in the Justice System,” said Chief Justice Patu. 

 “The law is not discriminatory. It is the same for the weak, the rich, the poor and the ordinary man."

“The law is not discriminatory because of the language or the colour of a person." 

“It’s not discriminatory because of religious or other beliefs as a person, but all are equal under the law and before the trial.”

Chief Justice Patu added the oath said they would do the right thing to all kinds of people without fear.

 “One of the natural human nature is fear and fear of those who threaten you, and you fear those who are stronger than you,” he said.

 “Or that's why you're afraid to make a decision that might make some people angry with you, and say the word of the allegory to take away your fears and do the right thing.”

Chief Justice Patu said it is not easy to carry out the legal role of an assessor in the Land and Titles Court. 

 “Probably this is why some of the judges sometimes say that when they sit on their seat as judges, it is only him and God during the decision making."

 “This means the assessor will not become a normal person, but rather he or she relies on God to make the right decision.”

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