Justice Roma presides over first admission ceremony

Supreme Court Justice Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma reminded the country’s newest lawyers of their “paramount duty” to the public interest after they were admitted to the bar on Wednesday. 

Reflected on his own oath of admission, which was presided over by the former Chief Justice, Patu Tiava'asu'e Falefatu Sapolu, Justice Fepulea’i said he could not recall what was said.

But he does remember the newly-admitted lawyers’ proud families being in attendance and the “uniqueness of the occasion.”

He said he took his oath at the old courthouse and was the second group of lawyers to be admitted by the former Chief Justice.

“It remains to be a memorable occasion…I am sure that for years to come, you too will remember this day and the significance of this journey,” said Justice Fepulea’i.

Graduating with a degree in law takes tremendous effort and is no small feat, he added.

Joining the bar represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, perseverance and endless support and the prayers of the tapuaiga (parents and families), said Justice Fepulea'i.

Gaining admission to the Samoan bar is “equally significant” to completing a law degrees and a “huge achievement,” he said.

“It also marks the beginning of a new challenge in your journey as lawyers and members of the legal profession,” said Justice Fepulea’i.

“It is, therefore, a memorable occasion to be celebrated for it is as much a success of your families as yours.”

Two lawyers, Samoan Elizabeth Roselyn Tiitii and Fiji national Adi Veti Bernadette Qeleinamana Vukalokalo, were admitted to the bar in Wednesday’s ceremony. 

Both attorneys are employed with The Office of the Attorney General: Ms. Tiitii as a prosecutor and Ms. Vukalokalo with the drafting division.

“There is something unique about your respective applications for admission […] for [Fijian national] Miss Vukalokalo, it is the opportunity and challenge of practicing in a country other than that of your home country. Thank you,” Justice Fepulea’i said.

“For Miss Tiitii it comes five years after completing your law degree in China… I commend you both for your patience and commitment.”

Assistant Attorney General and the Chief Public Solicitor, Sefo Ainuu, appeared at the ceremony representing the Office of the Attorney-General. 

The Secretary for the Samoa Law Society, Taitulagi Tuioti, also appeared for the Law Society.

“Today you join a professional community that is held in high regard, one that has grown in numbers and prestige over the years and one that continues to make an essential contribution to the social and economic progress of our small island nation,” said Justice Fepulea’i.

“In taking your oath today you have agreed to uphold duties to your client, in your case, Government. But more importantly, you have accepted a paramount duty to the court.”

Justice Fepulea’i said their “overriding duty” was to the public interest and emphasised that lawyers are required to assist the court to dispense justice according to the law.

“These are provisions that apply regardless of whether you appear in court or not,” said Justice Fepulea’i.

Law is about service and the responsibility to serve, the responsibility to serve their Government, their clients and the community, he said.

“It is not about winning but making sure justice is done. It is about finding real solutions to real problems with the satisfaction that justice has been served today and into the future,” Justice Fepulea’i said.

“Your success as a lawyer is not to be measured by the number of cases you win or lose but by the manner in which you conduct yourself in court.”

The new lawyers were encouraged to enjoy their “very demanding” jobs and to never be afraid to make mistakes.

“As you know, law can be very demanding but there is also a fun and enjoyable side to it. It is never possible to know everything about the law so it is inevitable that you will make mistakes. Unfortunately, we all have,” said Justice Fepulea’i.

“It is how you respond and learn from failure that matters. I encourage you to get behind your peers and seek the counsel and help of your senior colleagues. As a young defence lawyer many years ago I enjoyed the company of my senior colleagues, some of whom have passed. I counted on their help and I found their experience to be invaluable.”

On behalf of the Acting Chief Justice, Her Honour Mata Keli Tuatagaloa, and all justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Fepulea’i congratulated Ms. Tiitii and Ms. Vukalokalo and wished them fulfilling careers.

As for the “hard work” which awaits them, Justice Fepulea’i told the new lawyers to not forget the Lord and to seek his guidance in all they do. 

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