Supreme Court rules in favour of L.T.C. President's application

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 14 April 2022, 2:12PM

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of an application by the Land and Titles Court President and ordered the Government to resume providing administrative support for L.T.C. Judges to carry out their duties. 

Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa handed down the decision on Thursday. 

L.T.C. President Fepuleai Atilla Ropati sought the declaratory orders from the Supreme Court in relation to the Executive “prohibiting staff” from providing administrative assistance for the Court. 

The court proceedings is against the Minister of Justice Court and Administration, Matamua Vasati Pulufana and claimed the L.T.C. Court has not had any hearing since its final hearing in December 2021. 

Matamua acknowledged administrative services are not being provided to the Judges and maintained she has not breached the principle of judicial independence because she has not tried to influence the Judges' ability. 

She also argued that the appointment of the sitting L.T.C. Judges was revoked under the repealed L.T.A. 1981. 

The Court noted that the allegation that the Minister prohibited staff from providing material assistance to the Judges of the L.T.C. is a gravely serious.

The Court also acknowledged that judicial independence is one of a number of overlapping ideas, which when taken together, describes the concept of separation of powers: (Samoa Party v Attorney General).

In their discussion, the panel of Justices said they accept the Minister has acted in good faith, in order to protect the integrity of the new judicial system and for this “we commend her”. 

Furthermore, it acknowledged the President of L.T.C. for his strong defence of the Principles of Judicial Independence. 

However, for the reasons advanced, the Court concluded that the judicial appointments made under the L.T.A. 1981 Act continued to have jurisdiction only insofar as expressly saved and provided for under s 67(2) L.T.A. 2020. 

“The President and Judges who were appointed under the 1981 L.T.A. do not have the authority to exercise jurisdiction with respect to the other provisions of the 1981 L.T.A. or under any of the provisions of the L.T.A. 2020,” the Court ruled. . 

 “This determination is reasonably attributed to Parliament. 

“It is a matter for Parliament to now consider how to take these matters forward.” 

The Court then granted the relief noting the “applicant is entitled to immediate relief from the Executive by their provision of the support services, such services to resume immediately to enable the applicant and judges of the L.T.C. to carry out their normal business in accordance with the above referral transitional provisions of the L.T.C. 2020.” 

The Attorney General, Su’a Hellene Wallwork acted for the Minister with lawyer Leilani Tamati represented the L.T.C. President. 

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 14 April 2022, 2:12PM
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