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District Court Rules

 

DISTRICT COURT RULES

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.GENERAL PROVISIONS

RULE 1. TITLE AND SCOPE
RULE 2. APPLICABILITY OF OTHER RULES

II. SMALL CLAIMS

RULE 3. EQUITABLE RELIEF

RULE 4. COMMENCEMENT OF ACTION

RULE 5. DEFENDANT'S COUNTERCLAIM

RULE 6. EVIDENCE - WITNESSES - COSTS.

RULE 7. PROSECUTION OR DEFENSE BY ATTORNEY

RULE 8. ASSIGNEE FILING CLAIM

RULE 9. EXECUTION OF JUDGMENTS

RULE 10. SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT.

RULE 11. RIGHT TO APPEAL

RULE 12. PROCEDURE ON APPEAL.

RULE 13. DE NOVO JUDGMENT FINAL

III. APPEALS FROM DISTRICT COURT

RULE 14. IN GENERAL.

RULE 15. APPLICABILITY OF OTHER RULES

IV. TERMINATIONS AND RELINQUISHMENT PROCEEDINGS

RULE 16. SCOPE.

RULE 17. JURISDICTION.

RULE 18. CAPTION OF PETITIONS.

RULE 19. PETITION FOR VOLUNTARY RELINQUISHMENT.

RULE 20. PETITION FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

RULE 21. SERVICE ON RESPONDENT.

RULE 22. WAIVER OF APPEARANCE

RULE 23. PETITIONER'S PRESENCE REQUIRED

V. ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS

RULE 24. SCOPE

RULE 25. JURISDICTION

RULE 26. CAPTION OF PETITIONS.

RULE 27. REQUIREMENT FOR PETITION.

RULE 28. NOTICE TO FATHER OF ILLEGITIMATE CHILD.

RULE 29. INVESTIGATION BY CHILD PROTECTION OFFICER

 

I.GENERAL PROVISIONS

RULE 1.TITLE AND SCOPE. These rules shall be known as the District Court Rules and shall be cited as DCR. They govern proceedings in the District Court of American Samoa.

RULE 2. APPLICABILITY OF OTHER RULES. In so far as is practicable and appropriate, the High Court Rules and Trial Court Rules shall apply in district court.

 

II. SMALL CLAIMS.

RULE 3. EQUITABLE RELIEF. In any small claims action the District Court may grant equitable relief in the form of rescission, restitution, reformation, and specific performance, in lieu of, or in addition to, money damages.

RULE 4.COMMENCEMENT OF ACTION.

(a) An action shall be commenced by the plaintiff's filing in person or by mail with the clerk, on a form furnished by the clerk, a claim under oath setting forth:

(1) the name and address of the defendant;

(2) the amount and the basis of the claim;

(3) that plaintiff has demanded payment; and

(4) that defendant has refused to pay;

(b) The clerk shall cause a copy of any claim to be served upon defendant. Upon proof of service, the clerk shall sign an order setting a hearing date not more than 30 days nor less than 5 days from the date of receipt of proof of service and shall cause a copy of the order setting the hearing date and directing the plaintiff to appear on such date with witnesses and documents to prove his claim to be served upon the plaintiff. Service shall be deemed complete on the date of service and service of the claim and order on defendant must be completed at least five days prior to the hearing date. Service shall be made in accordance with 4 T.C.R.C.P.

Effective November 20, 1993

RULE 5. DEFENDANT'S COUNTERCLAIM.

(a) No formal pleadings other than the claim and order are necessary. The defendant may file a claim in the same proceeding in an amount less than $1,000. In the event the defendant files such a claim in the proceeding, he shall serve a copy of his claim on the plaintiff at least five days before the hearing date, unless the plaintiff has served him 10 days or less before the hearings date, in which case he shall serve a copy of his claim at least one day before hearing date. Defendant shall file and serve his claim in the manner provided for filing and serving a claim under 4 DCR.

(b) (REPEALED).

Effective November 20, 1993

RULE 6.EVIDENCE - WITNESSES - COSTS.

(a) The hearing and disposition of small claims actions shall be informal, the object being to dispense justice promptly between the parties. The parties hall have the right to offer evidence by witnesses at the hearing or, with the permission of the court, at another time. The judge may consult witnesses informally and otherwise investigate the controversy. If the defendant fails to appear, the judge shall still require plaintiff to present evidence to prove his claim. The judge shall give judgment and make such orders as to some of payment or otherwise as he deems to be just and equitable for disposition of the controversy.

(b) The prevailing party in any action in the small claims court is entitled to costs of the action and also the costs of execution upon a judgment rendered therein. Such costs shall include costs of service of the order for appearance of the defendant.

RULE 7.PROSECUTION OR DEFENSE BY ATTORNEYS. No attorney at law, legal practitioner, or other person that the plaintiff and the defendant shall take any part in the filing or the prosecution or defense of litigation in small claims court, unless the attorney or legal practitioner is appearing to prosecute or defend an action by or against himself, or by or against a partnership in which he is a general partner and in which all the partners are attorneys or legal practitioners, or by or against a professional corporation of which he is an officer or director and of which all other officers and directors are attorneys at law or legal practitioners. Nothing herein shall prevent an attorney or legal practitioner from rendering advice to a party to such litigation, either before or after the commencement of such an action, nor shall anything herein prevent an attorney or legal practitioner from testifying to facts of which he has personal knowledge and about which he is competent to testify.

RULE 8. ASSIGNEE FILING CLAIM. No claim shall be filed by or prosecuted in small claims court by the assignee of such claim.

RULE 9.EXECUTION OF JUDGMENTS. Execution shall issue in the manner prescribed by statute.

RULE 10. SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT. If the judgment or order be against the defendant or crossdefendant, he shall pay the same forthwith or at any time and upon such terms and conditions as the judge shall prescribe. Immediately upon receipt of payment of the judgment, the judgment creditor or his assignee shall file with the court an acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment.

RULE 11.RIGHT TO APPEAL. Either party adversely affected may appeal the decision of the small claims court. Such appeal must be filed in writing with the clerk within 5 days of entry of judgment.

RULE 12.PROCEDURE ON APPEAL. On appeal to the trial division of the High Court the action shall be tried anew. The appellant shall pay the same filing fee as for the appeal of a civil action from the district court.

RULE 13.DE NOVO JUDGMENT FINAL. The judgment of the trial division of the High Court in any small claims action shall be final and not appealable.

Effective November 20, 1993

III. APPEALS FROM DISTRICT COURT

RULE 14. IN GENERAL. Final decisions of the district court may be appealed to the High Court. In those cases where there has been a record made of the proceedings in the district court, the appeal shall be to the appellate division. In those cases where no record has been made, there shall be a trial de novo in the trial division. Any case which is being appealed only on a question of law may be appealed directly to the appellate division.

RULE 15.APPLICABILITY OF OTHER RULES. Appeals to the appellate division from the district court shall be governed by the rules applicable to appeals from the trial division to the appellate division. Where a trial de novo is required in the trial division, the appellant must file his notice of appeal and demand for trial within 5 days of entry of judgment by the district court. The proceedings for the trial de novo shall then be governed by the rules applicable to notice, trials and proceedings in the trial division.

IV. TERMINATIONS AND RELINQUISHMENT PROCEEDINGS.

RULE 16. SCOPE. These rules apply to all proceedings in the Trial Division and District Court involving relinquishments and termination of parental rights.

RULE 17.JURISDICTION. The Trial Division of the High Court has jurisdiction over all relinquishments and terminations of parental rights. However, a justice of the Trial Division may appoint a district court judge to act as referee to hear uncontested relinquishment and termination cases. The findings and order of the referee shall become the order of the Trial Division unless a written appeal is filed with the clerk within 5 days of the referee's finding and order.

RULE 18.CAPTION OF PETITIONS. All petitions concerning relinquishments and termination of parental rights must be filed with the clerk and be captioned: "In the High Court of American Samoa: Trial Division."

RULE 19.PETITION FOR VOLUNTARY RELINQUISHMENT.

(a) A petition for voluntary relinquishment of a child must be filed with the certified birth certificate of the child and the certified marriage certificate of the natural parents. If the child was born out of wedlock then the petition must so state and some identification of the natural parents will be required at the hearing on the petition.

(b) If one parent is not joined as a petitioner then a separate petition for involuntary termination of parental rights must be filed in accordance with these rules and the applicable statutes unless the child is illegitimate and the father has not asserted his paternity in which case he must merely be notified of any adoption proceedings as required by 28 D.C.R.

(c) The petition for voluntary relinquishment of a child must contain the following: the name and ages of the petitioners; names, age and race of the natural parents; the date of the child's birth; the reasons for the relinquishment; an acknowledgement by the petitioners; and a prayer for relief.

(d) The petition must be subscribed and sworn to before a notary public.

RULE 20.PETITION FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS.

(a) A petition for termination of parental rights must be filed with the certified birth certificate of the child, the certified marriage certificate of the natural parents and proof of the summons served on respondent or respondents. If the child was born out of wedlock then the petition must so state and some identification of the natural parents will be required at the hearing on the petition.

(b) The petition for termination of parental rights must contain the following: the child's name, age and residence; the child's natural father's name; the child's natural mother's name; the child's guardian, legal custodian or nearest relative; the petitioner's name or petitioners' names; and allegation of neglect and/or dependency; and a prayer for relief.

(c) The petition must be subscribed and sworn to before a notary public.

RULE 21.SERVICE ON RESPONDENT. The petition and summons on the respondent or respondents in a proceedings for termination of parental rights must be:

(a) by personal service if respondent is within American Samoa and the return of service must be filed with the clerk;

(b) by registered mail if respondent is not within American Samoa and the return of service must be filed with the clerk; or

(c) by publication of notice of the hearing once in a newspaper of general circulation at least 30 days before the hearing on the petition if service by other means has failed. An affidavit, that service by other means has failed, by the petitioner or petitioners or his or their attorney must be filed with the clerk with the request to serve notice by publication.

RULE 22.WAIVER OF APPEARANCE. Waiver of appearance is presumed if:

(a) respondent fails to appear on the date of the hearing when the return of service or return receipt has been filed with the clerk at least 20 days before the hearing;

(b) respondent executes a waiver of appearance and/or a consent to judgment before a notary public and such has been filed with the clerk; or

(c) respondent does not appear or file a response with the clerk within 30 days of the service by publication.

RULE 23.PETITIONER'S PRESENCE REQUIRED. At the hearing on a petition for voluntary relinquishment or a petition for termination of parental rights the petitioner's or petitioners' presence is required.

V. ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS.

RULE 24.SCOPE. These rules apply to all proceedings in the District Court involving uncontested adoptions.

RULE 25.JURISDICTION. The Trial Division of the High Court has original jurisdiction over all contested adoption proceedings. The District Court has original jurisdiction over all uncontested adoption proceedings. Should an adoption before the District Court become contested the matter shall be immediately transferred to the Trial Division of the High Court.

RULE 26.CAPTION OF PETITIONS. Contested adoption petitions shall be captioned: "In the High Court of American Samoa; Trial Division." Uncontested adoption petitions shall be captioned: "In the District Court of American Samoa."

RULE 27.REQUIREMENT FOR PETITION. The petition for an uncontested adoption must be filed with the following:

(a) a certified copy of the child's birth certificate;

(b) some identification of the proposed adoptive parents, although this may be shown at the hearing on the petition;

(c) all orders of relinquishments for both natural parents; and

(d) all necessary consents from guardians.

The petition for adoption must conform to the statutory requirements with regard to content.

RULE 28.NOTICE TO FATHER OF ILLEGITIMATE CHILD. Where the father of an illegitimate child has not asserted his paternity, upon the filing of the petition for adoption notice must be served:

(a) by personal service of the petition and notice of the hearing if any alleged father is named in the petition by the natural mother of the child and the alleged father is in the jurisdiction;

(b) by notice of the petition and hearing by publication once in a newspaper of general circulation in all cases. This notice must be directed to "Father of the child __________."

The hearing on the petition for adoption shall not be held until at least 30 days after the notice by publication.

RULE 29. INVESTIGATION BY CHILD PROTECTION OFFICER. Upon filing the petition for adoption the proposed adoptive parents must schedule an interview with the Child Protection Officer. If required by statute, the Child Protection Officer must file with the District Court written report in conformity with the statutory requirements. The findings of the Child Protection Officer may be challenged by the petitioner or petitioners at the hearing.