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L.T.C. unveils new fees

Under new fees implemented by the President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati, parties will have to pay $500 to secure postponements for Special Hearings. 

The fee structure is outlined in a letter and two-page policy and guidelines for the Court signed by Fepulea’i, who argues that the fees are a means of encouraging the efficient use of the Court's time.

The letter, dated 7 February, 2020 and titled "Policy and Guidelines" says that a $300 fee will be required for making statements of claim.

For L.T.C. Special Hearings, any postponement will cost $500 on top of a $200 fee charged to both involved parties. 

“For matters that have already been scheduled for the L.T.C. the statement of claim must be received by the Registrar a week before the case is before the court," says a translated copy of the letter, which is in Samoan. 

“For example, in a case scheduled the first week or March the statement of claim must be submitted before the second week of February. 

“The Registrar will only accept the statement of claim for the case once a fee of $300 is paid. However, for statements of claim submitted on the day of the case a fee of $500 must be paid first.

Fepuela’i in his letter noted the L.T.C. has no intention of seeking funds from the public or adding to their burdens. 

“However the intention is to encourage parties to submit their statements of claim and affording the judges the opportunity and ample time to go through the claims before the case is called,” he said. 

Fepulea’i in his letter says without appropriate time for Judges to go through claims there is a chance the claims will not be properly vetted: “There are cases where numerous parties are involved and that means there are also numerous statements of claims, hence the need for ample time for the Judges to properly go through the claims". 

Fepuela’i said that Judges are keen to thoroughly investigate materials submitted for a case and that is the sole purpose of the new fees is to encourage the submission of statements of claim on time.

Regarding L.T.C. Special Hearings, the President says there will be no more postponements unless it’s necessary for the Judges.  

The letter says that if an adjournment is requested and granted by the court the party making the request will pay $500 to inform all parties involved. However if there was a delay in submitting a motion for adjournment the requesting party will pay $500 to the Court and $200 each from the parties involved for the judges time says Fepulea’I in his letter. 

But Maota Logologotaeao from Savai’i said the new fees will only pose an obstacle to those seeking justice. 

“Other families can afford the new fees, but other families are not as fortunate,” said Maota.

“Where is the justice in that?”

Emailed questions to the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration Chief Executive Officer, Moliei Simi Vaai, asking whether the fees were approved by the Revenue Board and the concerns raised by the public, were not answered by press time.  

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