There is a law to regulate legal fees: Minister

Legislation to regulate legal fees, specifically relating to the processing of legal adoption papers, has already been passed but is yet to be fully enforced as a law. 

This was the clarification from the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainuu in parliament this week. 

Fa’aolesa was responding to concerns raised by Member of Parliament for Falealili East, Fuimaono Te’o Samuelu on the various legal fees for adoptions during the budget debate. 

Contrary to the Minister’s claim that the Government cannot regulate legal fees charged by law firms, Fa’aolesa said there is a legislation that was passed but is yet to be enforced as a law.

This follows consultation with the Attorney General and M.J.C.A. Chief Executive Officer when he was informed of the legislation that was passed in 2014.

“There are some issues in enforcing the legislation,” Fa’aolesa told the Parliament. 

He said there is a question that needs to be asked if the adoption process should be made easy or not. 

“The reason why I ask this is because I attended a workshop in Bali two years ago about human trafficking and modern slavery. 

“That is the reason why the Government has decided to review the Act on adoption, due to many parents seeking help from the Prime Minister regarding their children, who were adopted overseas for hopes of a brighter future but overlooked potential danger.”  

The M.P. for Falealili East, Fuimaono then took the floor to inform the Minister that he initially told the Parliament that Government did not have the authority to regulate legal fees for adoption. 

He made reference to the hansard, saying that it clearly stated what the Minister had raised earlier. 

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi then interjected. 

He said the most important issue is whose responsibility is it to enforce the legislation. 

Tuilaepa said it is the lawyers’ duty to implement the legal fees required by law but have refused to. 

He added that the matter needs to be followed up to identify when there is a delay in implementing the legislation. 

Fuimaono raised in the Parliament concerns relating to adoption costs adding up to $3,000 tala in legal fees. 

He requested if it was possible to have the matter referred back to the Court Registrar to process the papers, rather than having to pay expensive fees.  

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