In re Matai Title “I`aulualo”

FOLAU I`AULUALO, Claimant,

 

v.

 

PULE SITAIAI MA`ILEOI, and TUASIVI S. I`AULUALO,

Counter-claimants.

 

[In the Matter of the Matai Title “I`AULUALO,” of the village of Afono]

 

High Court of American Samoa

Trial Division

 

MT No. 08-97

 

September 24, 1998

 

 

[1] A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) provides that in a matai title dispute, the criteria to be considered are the best hereditary right; clan support; forcefulness, character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs; and value to family, village, and country.

 

[2] Where all candidates for a matai title have a harmonious family history, the court applies the Sotoa rule in calculating the best hereditary right and looks to the earliest generation descendant. 

 

[3] Under A.S.C.A. § 43.0302, where a matai title candidate insists on his position that the matter be taken to court, meetings must first be held at the Office of Samoan Affairs.  

 

[4] Where claimants’ candidacies in a matai title dispute are not presented to the assembled family for consideration, they can lay no claims to family support, but where a claimant’s candidacy is presented to the family and is unanimously endorsed by family consensus, such candidate will prevail on the issue of clan support.

 

[5] In evaluating forcefulness, character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs in a matai title dispute, the court will consider a candidate’s age, work history, prominence in the community, personality, leadership ability, and health.   

 

[6] In evaluating value to family, village, and country in a matai title dispute, the court will consider a candidate’s ability to make peace,  connection to the community, service to the family by contribution to fa`alavelave and village obligations, and family following. [2ASR3d239]

 

Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, TAUANU`U, Chief Associate Judge, TUAOLO, Associate Judge, LOGOAI, Associate Judge, and SAGAPOLUTELE, Associate Judge.

 

Counsel:    For Claimant, Katopau T. Ainu`u

                    For Pule Sitaiai Ma`ileoi, Afoa L.S. Lutu

                    For Tuasivi S. I`aulualo, Tuana`itau F. Tuia, LP

 

OPINION AND ORDER

 

The matai title I`aulualo has been vacant for many years.  Among other things, a longstanding history of factional rivalry within the I`aulualo extended family has existed between the immediate families of candidate Folau I`aulualo and candidate Tuasivi S. I`aulualo.[1]  The I`aulualo family has since been divisive on the issue of matai succession, an issue which has been before this court earlier but remanded back to the family after the court found that none of the candidates then vying for the title were legally eligible to succeed.  See Aoelua v. I`aulualo

, 25 A.S.R.2d 116 (Trial Div. 1994), aff`d Siofaga v. I`aulualo, AP No. 06-94 (App. Div. 1995).  Once again, this dispute is before the court.  Contesting succession at this time are Folau S. I`aulualo (“Folau”), Tuasivi S. I`aulualo (“Tuasivi”), and Pule Sitaiai Ma`ileoi (“Pule”).

 

[1] In these matters we look to the four statutory criteria set out in A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c), namely; (1) best hereditary right, (2) clan support, (3) forcefulness, character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs, and (4) value to family, village, and country.

 

Discussion

 

1.  Best Hereditary Right

 

[2] We find that all three candidates are blood heirs to the matai title I`aulualo.  We further find that all three candidates descended from the first title-holder established in Afono, I`aulualo Tuua.  Family history records the first titleholder as having three issue: Sili`i (female); Taualoa (female); and Solo (male).  The three candidates before the court are all descended from Taualoa.  In these circumstances where family history is harmonious, we apply the Sotoa rule in calculating best hereditary right.  See In re Matai Title “Misa, AP No. 09-95 (App. Div. 1997);