The swearing in ceremony for Samoa’s Lands and Titles Court (LTC) Deputy President as well as the promotion of a Senior Judge to Vice President and the addition of one more LTC Judge is currently underway at Mulinuu Courthouse.
Former Electoral Commissioner and lawyer Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio is being sworn in as Deputy President while long serving Senior LTC Judge Leaupepe Fata Pula is promoted to Vice President.
Also being sworn in this morning is newly appointed LTC Judge Taueva Faafouina Mupo Sauvao who had previously served as Samoa’s Fire Chief (CEO of FESA) for many years.
A prayer service was led by Rev Faumuina Opapo, also a LTC Judge with Senior LTC Judge Masinalupe Tusipa as Master of Ceremony.
The appointment of the Deputy President of the LTC has come under scrutiny since it was revealed by the media. The Minister of Justice Hon. Vasati Seumanu Sili took action to put the process on hold.
The Minister said she had been blindsided by the decision and was surprised by the appointment.
“They moved ahead without even the courtesy of informing me, and the MJCA CEO never thought to brief the Minister that the Komisi was moving forward with the process,” said the Minister.
The Komisi referred to is a committee formed by a constitutional amendment 104E that comprises the LTC President as Chairperson, a Supreme Court Judge nominated by the CJ occupied by Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren, and the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission Lauano Vaosa Epa.
The Komisi signed off on the three appointments being sworn in this morning.
A letter sent yesterday from the Minister of Justice has ordered all Ministry staff to not participate in the swearing in ceremony.
The Head of State has also not issued a warrant of appointment, however, the Komisi have filed an application in the Supreme Court asking that their recommendation(s) be upheld.
Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson heard the matter in Chambers earlier this week. The Komisi is represented by Unasa Elaine Tamati while the Attorney General is representing the Head of State. The Supreme Court will hear the matter in the New Year.
Meantime, the President of LTC went ahead with the ceremony to swear in the LTC Deputy President and two judges of the LTC continued at the Mulinuu Courthouse this morning.
The Deputy President may preside over the Lands & Titles High Court, and can hear applications for leave to appeal.
In response to media questions the CEO of the Ministry Ms Moliei Vaai had said the prolonged vacancy of the Deputy President position was causing delays in Court proceedings and applications from the public for appeals against decisions of the LTC High Court.
The MJCA Chief Executive said the backlog of appeal cases now inundating the LTC was mainly due to the fact that they can only be heard by the President or Deputy President of LTC.
“The Deputy President with similar qualifications as the President as a qualified lawyer, can now share the responsibility and workload of the President”.