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FOTU TUPUOLA LEUTA, Claimant,v.LEATUALOA FUAMOLI MANAEA, Counter

 

FOTU TUPUOLA LEUTA, Claimant,
v.
LEATUALOA FUAMOLI MANAEA, Counter-claimant.
[In re the Matai Title “MANAEA” of the Village of Amouli]
High Court of American Samoa
Land and Titles Division
MT No. 03-00
December 10, 2002

 

[1] In matai title dispute, A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) provides that criteria to
be considered are best hereditary right; clan support; forcefulness,
character and personality, and knowledge of Samoan customs; and value
to family, village, and country.
[2] Applying traditional formula for evaluating and measuring heredity,
candidate showing shortest descent path to past titleholder prevails.
[3] When claim to family support was based on family meetings that
were sub-family gatherings, not meetings of whole family, neither
candidate enjoyed total support of family’s two clans.
[4] Court may look to demeanor; personality; presence of mind; the
clarity, speed and correctness with which answers were given; and selfconfidence
and other qualities reflected from speech and behavior in
assessing personal attributes.
[5] Retirement income is relevant factor in assessing value to family.

[6] Candidate who has lived with family in village and actively
participated in family and village affairs shows greater awareness of
family matters and has fostered better rapport with village council.
Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge,
SAGAPOLUTELE, Associate Judge and TUPUIVAO, Associate Judge.
Counsel: For Claimant, Asaua Fuimaono
For Counter-claimant, Charles V. Ala`ilima
OPINION AND ORDER
On April 26, 1999, Fotu F. Manaea filed his claim to succession with the
Office of the Territorial Registrar to the matai title “Manaea” pertaining
to the village of Amouli. Malaetia T. Manaea and Leatualoa F. Manaea
subsequently filed objections and their respective counter-claims to
succession. After the Secretary of Samoan Affairs issued a certificate of
irreconcilable dispute pursuant to A.S.C.A. § 43.0302, the matter was
referred for determination to the Lands and Titles Division of the High
Court in accordance with A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. Malaetia T. Manaea
subsequently withdrew his objection and counter-claim in open court.
We proceeded to trial upon the remaining claims to succession.
Discussion
[1] In these matters, the Court is guided by the four criteria set out in
A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c): (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.
1. Best Hereditary Right
Claimant Fotu Tupuola Leuta (“Fotu”) claims 12.5% hereditary
entitlement tracing his roots to Manaea Petero,1 his great-grandfather.
Counter-claimant Leatualoa F. Fuamoli (“Fuamoli”) claims 50%
entitlement through her father Manaea Fa`aloloi Vaimaona.
1 Manaea Petero was a Wallis Islander who apparently held the title by
virtue of his family membership through marriage. Petero was married to
Siv, the daughter of a prior titleholder. See Tuitui v. Leuma, 2 A.S.R. 418,
421 (Trial Div. 1948). Since we find that Fuamoli clearly prevails on the
issue of heredity, we need say no more on the exact degree of Fotu’s blood
entitlement.

[2] We find that both parties are blood related to the title Manaea.
Applying the traditional formula for evaluating and measuring heredity,
we further find that Fuamoli prevails because she can show the shortest
descent path to a past titleholder.
2. Clan Support
The only semblance of common ground between the parties on this issue
is that the family’s clans number two and the parties are not from the
same clan. Beyond that, the parties’ divisiveness on clan identity and
make-up is total. Fotu, who does not command the support of Fuamoli’s
side of the family, feels that he can claim complete support of all the
clans by simply ignoring Fuamoli’s side as Manaea family members.2
The apparent deep-seated contention between Fotu’s side of the family
and Fuamoli’s side of the family is more far-reaching. The evidence
clearly points to factional rivalry beyond the affairs of the Manaea
family itself. The ill will between the parties is enveloped in a
longstanding controversy between the principal families of Amouli,
engendered by their competing, and apparently ongoing, claims to
historical prominence and supremacy in the village. This inter-family
controversy has been the bane of village discord and root of many land
disputes from Amouli. See e.g. Utu v. Fuata, 17 A.S.R.2d 104 (Land &
Titles Div. 1990).
As Fotu’s side of the family is related to the Gogo title, while Fuamoli’s
side of the family is akin to the Utu title, the matai dispute before us took
on the unmistakable flavor of the extended inter-family rivalry. In terms
of oral tradition, for example, the parties’ respective versions were
appropriately slanted. Where both had agreed that the Manaea title had
its origins in a pigeon hunting excursion with High Chief Liufau, the
parties disagreed as to the identity of the village founding father involved
and, hence, the progenitor of the first Manaea titleholder. Fotu’s side
naturally claimed that Liufau’s hunting partner was Gogo while
Fuamoli’s side unsurprisingly said it was Utu.
[3] We find that while meetings were called to consider the issue of
2 This obdurate claim is erroneous. In prior litigation, the Court in Tuitui v.
Leuma, 2 A.S.R.2d 418 (Trial Div. 1948), not only found that Fuamoli’s
father, Vaimaona Leuma, was a blood member of the Manaea family, but
concluded that he was also the most eligible claimant then to hold the
family’s title. Vaimaona Leuma was duly certified by the Court and he
held the Manaea title for many, many years.

matai succession, these meetings were in essence sub-family gatherings
and not meetings of the Manaea family as a whole. The evidence
showed, for instance, that while a Manaea family meeting was called by
Gogo to discuss matai succession, it also showed that Gogo’s timing
strategically coincided with the off-island medical evacuation of the
ailing Utu titleholder. This particular meeting opportunity was,
therefore, hardly calculated to attract a strong showing from the Utu
aligned faction of the Manaea family.
In our view, the claim to family support on the basis of these so-called
family meetings translates at best to mere blessings from one’s own side
of the family. We find that neither candidate enjoyed the total support of
the Manaea family’s two clans, and, therefore, conclude that neither
candidate prevails on this consideration.
3. Forcefulness, Character and Personality, and Knowledge of Samoan
Customs
In our evaluation of the parties, we find from our observation of the
candidates and from our review of personal background and
achievements that Fotu prevails on this consideration. Fotu’s career path
has been more impressive; primarily he was a professional law
enforcement officer, retiring as Captain from the Department of Public
Safety, while Fuamoli, who has also retired, has largely been involved
with employment of a clerical nature. Additionally, Fotu in his early
years served with United States Marine Corp. He continues to utilize his
law enforcement background in a private business. We feel that these
resultant career achievements signify a greater measure of ambition and
drive.
[4] Moreover, in assessing personal attributes under this criterion, the
Court may look to “demeanor, personality, presence of mind, the clarity,
speed and correctness with which the answers were given, the selfconfidence
and other qualities reflected from . . . speech and behavior.”
See Reid v. Talalele, 4 A.S.R. 458, 463-64 (Land & Titles Div. 1964).
Under this heading, Fotu stood out as the more forceful personality, selfassured
and assertive. We also rate him ahead of Fuamoli in terms of
knowledge of Samoan custom.
Fuamoli, on the other hand, urges us to view Fotu’s aggressive posture
towards her side’s entitlement as a serious character flaw bespeaking
haughtiness. While the submission is appealing at first blush, we are
inclined to believe, however, that Fotu’s apparent obduracy is more
reactive in nature rather than inherent. As with the Gogo and other
principal families of Amouli, Fotu’s stance seems atypically reactive to a

continuing claim of the Utu titleholders to suzerainty, as alluded to in the
testimony of Fuamoli’s witness Fainu`ulelei, and as previously
advanced, and opposed, in Utu v. Fuata, 17 A.S.R.2d 104, 107 (Land &
Titles Div. 1990). That is, the Utu family has maintained, over the
vigorous opposition of other families, that Amouli is a one family village
with the Utu as the village headman. Suffice it to say that the evident
continuing ill will between the family’s factions is something that
requires reciprocal effort towards a resolution.
We find that Fotu prevails under this consideration.
4. Value to Family, Village, and Country
[5-6] We also find in favor of Fotu under this criterion. In terms of value
to the country, both candidates have creditably served, and retired from,
the territorial government. But as alluded to above, Fotu’s career path
has been more impressive. This is reflected in his greater retirement
income, a relevant factor to account hereunder in assessing value to
family. Tuinei v. Ieriko, 2 A.S.R. 117, 123 (Trial Div. 1940)
(recognizing income as factor in determining candidate’s value). Also in
terms of value to family and village, we find that unlike Fuamoli, whose
family ties primarily keeps her focus in Lauli`i serving the Vaimaona
title, Fotu’s heart and involvement has been service to the Manaea
family and the village of Amouli. Fotu has lived with the Manaea family
in Amouli serving and actively participating in Manaea fa`alavelave
(family affairs), acting as family spokesman on numerous occasions. He
has also participated in Amouli village affairs, including service to the
church and ongoing village projects. As such, Fotu has accumulated
greater awareness with Manaea family matters and has naturally fostered
better rapport with the Amouli village council. By contrast, Fuamoli’s
contact with Amouli village has only been intermittent through her
tautua (service) to the Utu family, not the Manaea family. She is
therefore not as familiar with family needs, nor knows the members of
the family. See Aano v. Sitau, 2 A.S.R. 107, 110 (Trial Div. 1940).
Furthermore, the Manaea title’s prestige and influence in village affairs
has necessarily waned over the years. The family was left leaderless for
many, many years with the extended off-island absence of one of its
former titleholders, who was subsequently removed for dereliction of
duty. Coupled with the vicissitudes of village politics and intrigue
among Amouli’s principal matai, the Manaea family today has much
need of strong leader. We find that Fotu better fits the bill; he prevails
under this heading proving to offer the greater potential to family, village
and country.

Conclusion and Order
On the foregoing, we conclude that Fotu is qualified to hold the title
Manaea. While Fuamoli prevails on hereditary considerations, Fotu
prevails over Fuamoli on the third and fourth criteria, with neither
prevailing on the issue of clan support. The Territorial Registrar shall, in
accordance with A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(b), register the matai title Manaea,
attached to the village of Amouli, in candidate Fotu Tupuola Leuta.
It is so ordered.