Legal practitioners pay tribute to Patu's legacy

The work of the outgoing Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu, has been hailed by leaders of the legal fraternity.

In bidding farewell to the outgoing Chief Justice during the valedictory sitting on Tuesday, Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff paid tribute to a hard working man who has held the position since 1992. 

He cited numerous Court proceedings and decisions delivered by Patu which has set the foundation of many legal matters. 

“Those decisions by your Honour highlight the contribution of jurisprudence in terms of contribution to law and justice,” he said. 

“It can be said therefore your overall contribution to judiciary system of Samoa has improved the access to justice for all of Samoa. 

“You leave behind a diverse bench, leave behind the bar, lift the standard of service of the Court for our people. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication you put in the practice of law and judiciary development jurisprudence and whole of justice in our beloved Samoa.”

Lemalu added whoever will become the next Chief Justice has big shoes to fill given Patu’s great legacy and many years of service. 

The President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, also congratulated the Chief Justice for his distinguished career on the bench. 

Leiataualesa pointed out that Patu has made a profound contribution to the Samoan legal profession through the volume of jurisprudence he has handed down over two decades. 

“His Honour’s contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the law will become a part of his enduring legacy,” said the President. 

“Today, the Samoa Law Society celebrates a truly remarkable career on the bench."   

“However, today is also a most important opportunity for the members of the Samoa Law Society to record our sincere thanks to His Honour for the legacy that he leaves to the profession.   

“Your Honour, Samoa’s jurisprudence will forever be characterized and coloured by the knowledge and wisdom you have passionately and carefully handed down during your time on the bench. 

“That will be a huge and enduring part of your legacy.”

Leiataualesa also highlighted some personal observations that he has gathered from Patu during his tenure. 

One is professionalism where all lawyers should approach their work with professionalism. 

“Throughout (close to) 27 years of your tenure, your Honour has shown us first‐hand how a consummate professional works,” he said.

“Your professionalism shows in the way that your court room has operated like clockwork on time without fail, day in and day out for 26 years, save for the days on which your Honour was visibly unable to carry out your duties due to illness.”

The second observation he pointed out is the dedication to the calling and the profession by the Chief Justice.

Leiataualesa said he was amazed at the energy with which Patu has pursued legal knowledge and wisdom.

“That is more remarkable is that this pursuit has never slowed down despite reaching the twilight years of his judicial career, and attaining the distinction as one of Samoa’s leading and most brilliant legal minds,” he said.

A piece of advise from Patu that Leiataualesa would remember from the time he was admitted to the bar in 2003 is to read case reports.

He said he has heard the Chief Justice give the same advice to countless other law graduates at their admission ceremonies.  

“Years later in 2008, His Honour visited the Attorney General’s Office where I was working to give a pep talk and offer some words of encouragement," he said. 

"When it was time for questions and answers, one of my colleagues asked the question, how did your Honour do such thorough research before there was the internet?

“His Honour patiently smiled and looked at all of the lawyers whose admissions he had presided over and said I read case reports.

“So the practice that His Honour encourages young lawyers to take up, is the tried and true practice that His Honour has himself used to build up his own legal knowledge and aid his own development.”

Leiataualesa thanked Patu for his legacy that he leaves behind as he vacates his position.

Patu graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, and Masters of Arts in Honours from the Auckland University in 1975. 

He started as legal officer with the Office of the Attorney General in 1976. In 1982, he was the Secretary of Justice and became the Attorney General from 1984 – 1991. He attended Marist Brothers Primary School and St. Joseph College in which he was the Dux for the final year. 

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