Appeal against L.T.C. decision could be one of the last

Lawyers are calling an appeal case brought against, Moananu Fanolua, over a parcel of land in Mulifanua, as one of the most significant to be brought before the Court of Appeal in recent years. 

The case, members of the legal fraternity have said, has been lent extra significance by proposed changes to the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) currently before Parliament.

The case involves the potential Supreme Court review of an L.T.C. decision, which, if judicial system reforms currently before Parliament are passed, would no longer be possible.  

Under the proposed changes before Parliament,  the L.T.C. would become entirely autonomous, with its own higher Courts and its decisions would not be subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court. 

In the matter at hand, Fanolua is seeking for the Supreme Court review of an L.T.C. decision. 

But prosecutors from the Attorney-General’s Office and other appellants are asking the Court of Appeal to dismiss a judgment from Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa that Fanolua had the right to have his case reviewed by the Court. 

A second group of appellants in the case are: Taimalelagi Naotala, Tuputala Naotala, Sinapioa Joyce and Taimalelagi Tiatia. 

They are collectively represented by lawyer, Tufuga Fagaloa.

The L.T.C. itself is represented by the lawyer, Fuimaono Sefo Ainu'u.

The appeal originates from an L.T.C. case which resulted in an eviction order being served on Fanolua from a piece of land in Mulifanua. The matter was then taken to the L.T.C. Appellate Court, which upheld the decision to evict Fanolua. 

Taimalelagi and his family have named the parcel of land ‘Fogalefue’. However, Fanolua says the land is instead called ‘Faimata’ and that his ancestors have lived on it for more than 100 years.

Following the L.T.C. eviction ruling, Fanolua, through his lawyer, Leota Tima Leavai, applied for the case to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. 

The Attorney General’s Office and Taimalelagi responded by filing applications asking the Supreme Court to strike out Fanolua’s applications for judicial review.

Under the law, the Supreme Court does not have the remit to review an L.T.C. decision unless it breaches a fundamental right, or what is known as Part II of the Constitution.

Fanolua argued that the L.T.C. decision had breached his right to a fair trial.

The basis of that argument was that he had a plan to develop the land on which he lives but that the Appellate Court of the L.T.C. had not accepted it. 

He argued the land had rejected the plan based on the chosen name for the land parcel and because he had called it ‘Faimata’ and not ‘Fogalefue’.

The L.T.C. only accepted Naotala's plan. Fanolua was not allowed to give evidence.

Leota said there had been a breach of his client’s natural justice rights to a fair trial at the L.T.C. Appellate Court because they had not accepted his plan.

The Supreme Court and Justice Mata accepted Fanolua’s application and she dismissed an application from the Attorney General’s Office and Taimalelagi to strike out the motion.

The Court of Appeal on Thursday told Fuimaono of the Attorney General’s Office that he has wasted too much time by filing the appeal.

If the Court of Appeal dismisses the appeal from the Attorney General’s Office and Taimalelagi, the matter will go back to the Supreme Court for a judicial review hearing.

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.

The three bills in question are the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.

A Parliamentary Special Committee is currently touring villages and seeking public feedback on the legislation. 

 



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