Law Society starts investigation into lawyers

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 12 July 2021, 10:00AM

Samoa Law Society has confirmed it is investigating the complaint lodged by the Human Rights Protection Party against lawyers who were engaged by political rival Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party.

The Society’s Vice President Su’a Hellene Wallwork has confirmed that they will now start the process to begin the investigation into its members based on the complaint lodged. 

“This complaint will now be dealt with by the Law Society. There is a prescribed process under the Lawyers and Legal Practitioners Act 2014 for addressing complaints,” said Su’a.

Last week the H.R.P.P. lodged an official complaint with the Samoa Law Society against lawyers who were involved in a swearing-in ceremony held under a tent outside the Parliament on 24 May 2021, which the Supreme Court later ruled unconstitutional.  

The complaint was signed by the Member-elect and H.R.P.P. Secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi and named lawyers Taulapapa Brenda Heather Latu; Matafeo George Latu; Ta’eu Masipa’u Papalii; Tuala Ponifasio, Fauolo Harry Schuster, Precious Chang and Muriel Lui. This is the second complaint the party has lodged against the F.A.S.T. members and those that assisted the political party. 

Taulapapa, in response to the complaint laid by the H.R.P.P. said last Thursday: "It appears this party refuses to stay in the field of play and follow the rules, and is throwing rocks from the changing sheds."

Su’a, in a statement issued by the Society, said the complaint has been widely publicised and she won’t express an opinion on the merits of the complaint.

“At this stage, I cannot express a view as to the merits of the complaint. The complaint will be received by the Law Society’s Council and then referred to the complaints committee that will investigate it,” she said.

“If the complaints committee finds that the lawyers involved have committed acts of ‘unsatisfactory professional conduct or acts of ‘professional misconduct’ then charges can be filed before a disciplinary tribunal.

“There will then be a hearing before the disciplinary tribunal to determine if the complaint is proven and if so what the appropriate penalty will be.”

The party’s complaint was addressed to the Society’s President Leiataualesa Komisi Koria with Leala pointing out that it follows the actions of certain members of the Society pursuant to the 24 May 2021 swearing-in ceremony held under a tent on the grounds of the Parliament.

“A declaratory judgment delivered by the Supreme Court on Monday 28 June 2021, has clearly stated that the so called swearing in by the F.A.S.T. Party is 'unconstitutional, unlawful and is therefore void and of no effect'.

“Taulapapa Brenda Heather Latu and her husband Matafeo George Latu as legal counsel for F.A.S.T. advised and took the lead in conducting the 'swearing in' of members of the F.A.S.T. party.

“These senior lawyers of the Samoa Law Society purported to act in the place of the Head of State and Clerk of the House. 

“Lawyer Ta’eu Masipa’u Papalii purported to act as the Speaker of the House and attended to the swearing in of the members of the F.A.S.T. Party. 

“Other senior members of the Samoa Law Society participated in the swearing in as counsel and as members of the F.A.S.T. party, namely Tuala Ponifasio, Fauolo Harry Schuster, Precious Chang, and Muriel Lui.”

Leala claims that Taulapapa and Matafeo acted unethically to advice, lead and carry out the “swearing in” for the benefit of their clients (F.A.S.T. party) and themselves. 

“It is our opinion that Mr. and Mrs. Latu were in a position of conflict of interest and used the 'doctrine of necessity' to validate their actions, thus setting an extremely dangerous precedent for all current and future members of the Samoa Law Society.” 

Furthermore Leala said that the alleged acts by Matafeo and Taulapapa were allegedly “treasonous acts and failed to uphold the rule of law and act independently in advising their client, the F.A.S.T. party.” 

According to Leala, the alleged acts by the lawyers brought the reputation of the Society into disrepute. 

“Their actions have severely diminished the public perception of the legal profession as professionals who should act to uphold the laws of Samoa and to look beyond personal gain and furthering their client’s interests.” 

He then urged the Samoa Law Society to investigate their complaints with urgency and impartiality. 

“As guardians and protectors of the rule of law in Samoa, we implore the members of the Law Society to treat our complaints with the seriousness they deserve. 

“Any political affiliations should be set aside in favour of the facts and merits of the matters raised in this letter.” 

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 12 July 2021, 10:00AM

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