3.0208 Jurisdiction of divisions.

Cite as [A.S.C.A. § 3.0208 ]

(a) The trial division of the High Court shall be a court of general jurisdiction with the power to hear any matter not otherwise provided for by statute. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the trial division of the High Court shall have original jurisdiction of the following classes of cases and controversies:

(1) civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000, except land and titles matters as provided in subsection (b);

(2) criminal cases in which a felony is charged;

(3) admiralty and maritime matters, of which the trial division shall have both in rem and in personam jurisdiction;

(4) juvenile cases;

(5) the probate of wills and administration of estates;

(6) domestic relations, except adoptions and actions arising under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act;

(7) all writs; and

(8) all matters of which the trial division has jurisdiction by statute.

(b) The land and titles division of the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction:

(1) in all matters relating to matai titles; and

(2) in all controversies relating to land.

(c) The Appellate Division of the High Court shall have jurisdiction to review, on appeal, final decisions of the trial and land and titles divisions of the High Court, matters on appeal from the District Court as provided in 3.0309, appeals of administrative decisions as provided in 4.1040 through 4.1044 and appeals of other matters specifically provided for by statute.

History: 1962, PL 7-36; 1967, PL 10-17; 1968, PL 10-62; 1969, PL 11-54; 1969, PL 11-59; 1970, PL 11-116; 1970, PL 11-119;amd 1975, PL 14-18; 1979, PL 16-28 § 11; 1979, PL 16-53 § 6; amd 1985, PL 19-8 § 1, amd 2008, PL 30-22.

Amendments: 1975 Subsection (a): provided for in rem jurisdiction in admiralty and maritime matters.

1979 Subsection (a): PL 16-28 added first sentence giving court general jurisdiction, and generally changed the specifics of the court’s jurisdiction us remainder of subsection.

PL 16-53 took original jurisdiction in actions under Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act from court and provided court did not have original jurisdiction of adoptions.

Subsection (b): deleted.

Subsection (c): deleted.

Subsection (d): redesignated as subsection (b) and deleted lands and titles division’s jurisdiction over Samoan names and titles, substituting jurisdiction over matai titles.

Subsection (e): deleted.

Subsection (f): redesignated as subsection (c), and deleted probate appeal jurisdiction, and added jurisdiction over district court appeals, administrative appeals and appeals of other matters provided for by statute.

Paragraph (a) (6): deleted “including” and added “except adoptions and”.

1985 Subsection (a)(1) deleted “$3,000” and added “$5,000".

Case Notes:

High Court jurisdiction “in all controversies relating to title to land” granted by this section when read with longstanding practice of referring all matters concerning communal land to land and titles division, a practice the Fono is cognizant of, includes action to set aside a lease. Tuilefano v. Beaver, ASR (1978).

There is no provision of the American Samoa Code which gives any court in the territory, or any division or department of any court, either expressly or by implication, in rem admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. Vessel Fijian Swift v. Trial Division. 4 ASR 983 (1975).

The High Court has in personam jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime causes of action, even though it does not have in rem admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and in the enforcement of such personal liability, a vessel or other goods or chattels, or credits, may be seized, attached and levied upon; and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims, are on their face applicable in such in personam cases, insofar as they are consistent with the court’s statutory jurisdiction. Vessel Fijian Swift v. Trial Division, 4 ASR 983 (1975).

In rem admiralty and maritime jurisdiction in the Trial Division of the High Court cannot be grounded upon “the necessity and importance of in rem Admiralty jurisdiction . in the orderly administration of Justice in this maritime Territory”; such determination is for the legislature. Vessel Fijian Swift v. Trial Division. 4 ASR 983 (1975)

Subsection (a)(3) does not confer on the High Court or trial court the power to enjoin other related actions in United States District Courts. It does, however, include the admiralty law principle of limiting a shipowner’s liability to its interest in the vessel and its freight Interocean Ships, Inc. v. Afamilionia Fa’atasiga, App. No. 32-84 (11/19/85): In the matter of Inter. Ocean Ships, Inc., C.A. No. 34-84 (4/21/86).

High Court of American Samoa is not a court of the States within the meaning of federal statute, 28 USC § 1333, denying admiralty jurisdiction to state courts. Filing of action in federal bankruptcy court triggers automatic stay of cases already filed in High Court of American Samoa relating to same property. Sec. II U.S.C. § 362.

Once bankruptcy case is filed, High Court cannot subsequently accept filing of suit over same property, Rainwater v. M/V Sea Encounter, 3 A.S.R.2d 87 (1986).

The High Court of American Samoa has in rem admiralty jurisdiction. A.S.C.A. § 3.0208(a) (3).

Rainwater v. The Sea Encounter, 3 A.S.R.2d 87 1986).

Local statute granting admiralty jurisdiction to High Court allows Court to apply substantive principles of the maritime common law, even though Congress has never directly and specifically conferred admiralty jurisdiction upon High Court. A.S.C.A. § 3.0208(a) (3). Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye v. HGN Corp., 6 A.S.R.2d 64 (1987).