Election rulings published online

Court rulings in election petition cases for next year’s election have been published, after a lack of written judgements drew criticism from the Prime Minister.

The decisions are available on the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute website.

“All the decisions are available online with PACLII.com and it is not illegal to issue a ruling/decision and render reasoning later,” said an official from the Ministry of Courts and Justice Administration, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The official said the courts found working to the urgent timeframe required to resolve the election petitions challenging. 

The publication of the rulings comes after Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi urged the Samoa Judicial Commission to examine the conduct of a certain Judge.

Speaking last week, the Prime Minister criticised the Judge for making “verbal rulings” without issuing “written decisions” to explain the legal reasons to justify them.

Tuilaepa did not name a particular Judge. But speaking during his weekly TV1 programme, he referred to decisions made by the Supreme Court when it sat over election petitions.

The panel of Judges who presided over the petition cases was made up of all available Supreme Court Justices.

“That is one major issue from the [election petition] cases that were recently dealt with in [the Supreme Court] over the nomination of election candidates,” Tuilaepa said. “This does not relate to Judges that have rendered decisions and also prepared written rulings but there is one specific Judge who hasn’t done that."

Tuilaepa claimed the Judge had stated the written decision would be delivered at a later date.

The Prime Minister alleged that the oral judgment was handed down but the Justice had to “look for [legal] basis for the decision”. 

The President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, said the Prime Minister's verbal attack of the Judges was emblematic of their concerns about the Government’s reforms of the courts. 

On Tuesday the Parliament passed a suite of changes to the Land and Titles Court(L.T.C.), the Constitution and the broader judiciary, including the role of the Executive in shaping the Supreme Court. 

On the eve of the changes passing into law, the legal fraternity claimed Tuilaepa's criticisms of the Judges can be interpreted as interference in judicial affairs and was “apt for abuse” by a Government.

In response to questions from the Samoa Observer, Leiataualesa said his comments show what might happen if public servants were given the power to dismiss Supreme Court Judges, something the reforms would allow. 

“It remains the view of the Law Society that the new laws would give the Executive an unprecedented amount of power to influence and control the makeup of the Judiciary,” he said. “They would also create a system that would be apt for abuse by the Government of the day.

“The Samoa Law Society cautions against the passage of the three bills in question without further consultation and review to ensure that the above concerns, which are shared by several international bodies, are properly addressed.”

According to the M.J.C.A. official, all the electoral petition rulings are now available online for the general public to access. P.A.C.L.I.I. is an online database of cases that go before the courts across the Pacific.

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