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Members of the Taufi Family v. Moeaveave,

MEMBERS OF THE TAUFI FAMILY, Petitioners

v.

TAUFI MOEAVEAVE, Respondent

High Court of American Samoa
Land and Titles Division

MT No. 4-89

July 13,1989

__________

Statute requiring attempted resolution of "controversies over matai titles" before Secretary of Samoan Affairs before judicial action may be commenced applies not only to cases of matai appointment put also to petition for matai removal. A.S.C.A. § 43.0102(a).

Copy of petition for matai removal without accompanying certificate of irreconcilable dispute from Secretary of Samoan Affairs must be referred to Secretary for resolution. Land & Titles Rule 4(a);

Before KRUSE, Chief Justice.

Counsel: For Petitioners, A.P. Lutali
For Respondent, Asaua Fuimaono

On Motion to Set for Trial:

This is an action to remove a matai and petitioners have moved to set the matter for trial. After examination of the file, the Court notes that the matter has not been referred to the Office of Samoan Affairs for the preliminary administrative hearings before the Secretary of Samoan affairs as provided by A.S.C.A, § 43.0302. Counsel for petitioners submits that the enactment's requirements for administrative action apply only to cases of matai appointments and not to matai removal.

We disagree. A.S.C.A. § 43.0302(a) provides in part:

Before any action relating to controversies over... matai titles
may be commenced in the land and titles [12ASR2d7] division,
each party shall file with his complaint a certificate signed and
attested by the Secretary of Samoan Affairs or his deputy, in
which the Secretary or his deputy affirms and states:

(1) that on at least 2 occasions, the parties have appeared
personally before him and 2 persons designated by him, without
an attorney or counsel, and that an attempt was made to resolve
the controversy.

The enactment talks generally in terms of "controversies over matai titles"; it does not attempt to discriminate, in terms of its application, between actions to appoint a matai and actions to remove a matai. At the same time, we see no apparent reason why the enactment's underlying policy of preliminary extra-judicial resolution should not be equally applicable to matai removal matters as well.

Further, Rule, 2(b) of the Land and Titles Rules provides, inter alia that matai removal actions are commenced by the filing of the appropriate pleading with the land and titles division of the High Court. That appropriate pleading is a petition. Land and Titles Rule 4(a). This rule further provides that:

[i]f the. ..petition [to remove a matai] is not accompanied by a
certificate of irreconcilable dispute from the Secretary of Samoan
Affairs, the clerk of court shall receive, but not file, the... petition
and shall assign a case number, A copy of the ...petition shall be
transmitted forthwith by the clerk of court to the Secretary of
Samoan Affairs for resolution as provided by statute.

Id. (emphasis added).

On the foregoing, the following Order will enter:

1. Motion to seta trial date is hereby denied.

2. The Clerk shall forthwith forward a copy of the petition to the Secretary of Samoan Affairs as provided by Land and Titles Rule 4(a) if he has not already done so.

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