Backlog justifies more Land and Titles Court Judges

The need to deal with a backlog of cases dating back to 2016 was the driving force behind the swearing in of an additional four Lands and Titles Court Judges.

This is explanation from the Judiciary Services Commission (J.S.C.) in response to questions about the decision.

The Samoa Observer was told that the Ministry of Justice Courts and Administration had initially asked for three Judges.

Instead, seven names were submitted for Cabinet approval. They were endorsed and sworn in last December.

They joined another three Judges who were sworn in earlier in September last year, taking the total number of new L.T.C. Judges to 10.

The Secretary of J.S.C., Moliei Simi Vaai, said the appointment of additional judges was necessary.

 “One of L.T.C’s objective is to preside over all the backlog of cases and the reason why J.S.C. saw the need of the additional judges to meet those needs,” Ms. Vaai said during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

 “If that wasn’t done, we will continue to face delays this year in delivering the cases so that was the aim is to catch up with those matters. If we don’t have the resources to do it, we will not meet those challenges.”

The Secretary of J.S.C. said the backlog goes back to appeals from 2016, which do not include matters in the Court of First Instance.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi raised the issue during his speech at the opening of the training for Judges last week.

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Tuilaepa recalled there were initially two L.T.C. Judges that were advertised and by the time the submission came to Cabinet, the number had increased to three.

He added that there were also only three Judges proposed for the end of last year but when Cabinet received the paper, that number had increased to seven.

 “It was approved because the role of the Judges’ bench is crucial,” said the Prime Minister.

Tuilaepa said the Minister of Finance had strongly opposed the proposal.

But he stands by the decision to endorse the recommendation saying the role of the Judiciary is critical and having more Judges is important.

This thinking was highlighted when the Government prioritized the construction of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration building instead of Parliament’s Maota Fono.

“I do not have to explain the basis of the Government’s decision to prioritise the judiciary,” he said.

 “At the centre of a person’s life is their identity, their titles and their lands that is kept deep down in their heart.  If the decision is not righteous all that is lost…you go to sleep feeling pain and you wake up in pain.”

Tuilaepa said his office has become a complaint centre where members of the public direct their grievances over matters handled by the Judges in the L.T.C. Courts.

“No one understands their pain better than me,” he said about the people who complain.

 “Every day someone comes to tell me that they have no hope and had made many attempts to get help [from Justice].

 “Who will they find help for the things [Lands and Titles] they have lost, it was given to them by God.”  


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