Lawyers overloaded with electoral petition cases

An overload of election petition cases handled by a number of lawyers led to them asking for an extension in the deadline to file documentation due Tuesday this week.

But the request by the lawyers was denied by the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, who reminded the lawyers of their obligations to their clients.

The Chief Justice said he was not satisfied with the grounds used by the lawyers to extend the deadline to file, saying that “if they have overcommitted themselves, that is a matter for them and their clients”. 

In a letter dated 11 May 2021 the Chief Justice responded to the applications for extension to file counterclaims or responses from some members of the legal fraternity. 

The letter was addressed to the Samoa Law Society as well as all law firms and the Office of the Attorney General. 

“All counsels, bar one, involved with the Electoral Petitions have filed standard form applications for an extension of time within which to file their responses and or counter petitions,” he wrote in the letter. 

“The applications have been made and signed by counsel who only last week advised the Court, directly or through who appeared for them, that they could comply with the terms of the Court’s practice note to file their documents within 5 working days. 

“I note that the Attorney General, who acts for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner, has not signed the joint applications.”

There are currently 28 electoral petitions and 28 counter petitions pending in the Court. 

The Chief Justice said the applications for adjournments are made from the bar and without proper supporting evidence.

“The main ground is that given the number of electoral matters counsels are involved in, that more time is needed to prepare and file affidavits in support and counter petitions (if any),” he said.

“I am not satisfied that there are proper grounds to grant an extension of time; all counsel knew of their obligations to prepare responses and counter-petitions. 

“If they have overcommitted themselves that is a matter for them and their clients. Accordingly the applications for adjournment all of them are dismissed.”

The Chief Justice said the lawyers can seek leave to file documents out of time for counter petitions and response.

But those will be handled on a case by case basis, he said. 

“Each party will need to file an affidavit explaining why it has not been possible for them to comply with a direction of the Court to file their documents by today, Tuesday 11 May 2021.

“There may also be a matter of costs.”

During court mention for election petitions on Wednesday, the Chief Justice had difficulty allocating dates for hearings due to several lawyers representing more than three cases. 

According to the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration Chief Executive Officer, Moliei Simi Vaai there are seven different law firms involved in the legal representation of various election petitioners. 

The private lawyers involved in the election petitions are Muriel Lui, Mauga Precious Chang, Tanya Toailoa, Alex Sua, Magele Leone Sua-Mailo, Tuatagaloa Shane Wulf, Arthur Lesa, Maureen Tuimalealiifano, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, Leinafo Taimalelagi, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, Elizabeth Chan Tung- Peters and Tufuga Fagaloa Tufuga.   

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