SOA`IMAILE A. SILILA, v.ASOFA`AFETAI AILUA MAGA

 

SOA`IMAILE A. SILILA, Claimant
v.
ASOFA`AFETAI AILUA MAGA, Counter-claimant
[In re Matai Title “UTOFILI” from the Village of Fagaitua]
High Court of American Samoa
Land and Titles Division
MT No. 04-01
October 23, 2002

 

[1] The Utofili family consists of two distinct family branches, or clans.

[2] Where matai candidate received favorable decision from family, but
sought reconciliation with other candidate before offering title for
registration, such actions illustrated conciliatory character of candidate
and personal trait valuable under third prong of statutory test.
Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, ATIULAGI, Associate Judge, MAMEA,
Associate Judge, and TUPUIVAO, Associate Judge.
Counsel: For Claimant, Soli S. Aumoeualogo
For Counter-claimant, Tauivi Tuinei
DECISION AND ORDER
This matter came on regularly for trial on September 26, 2002, with both
parties appearing with counsel.
Findings
The court having heard the evidence and examined the proofs presented
makes the following A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) findings:
1. Best Hereditary Right
There is no dispute that claimant Soa`imaile A. Silila (“Soa`i”) here
prevails; her grandfather was a past titleholder. On the other hand,
counter-claimant Asofa`afetai Ailua Maga (“Aso”) had to trace his
bloodline back several generations since most of the immediately past
matai have come from Soa`i’s side of the family. While satisfied that
both candidates are blood connected to the Utofili title, we find, using
the traditional rule, that Soa`i prevails on this consideration.
2. Wish of the Clans
[1] Both sides acknowledge the existence of two clans as customary
today in the Utofili family. While the parties were not particularly clear
on clan definition and while not in exact agreement as to family labels
assigned to the clans,1 the parties were clearly in accord as to the
existence of two distinct family branches. These clans respectively gave
past Utofili titleholders such as Mativa, Soa`i’s paternal grandfather, and
Vaimauga, Aso’s paternal uncle. Soa`i is from Mativa’s branch while
Aso hails from Vaimauga’s side of the family. For the sake of
convenience, we refer, for these purposes only, to the two family
1 Soa`e labels the clans as Fa`atauva`a and Vaimauga while Aso refers to
the clans as Mativa and Iela.

branches as being Soa`i’s side on the one part and Aso’s side on the
other.
The evidence alluded to a number of family meetings called to address
the matai vacancy and that these meetings invariably resulted in favor of
Aso succeeding to the title. Soa`i, on the other hand, testified and
maintained that these meetings only involved Aso’s side of the family
and not her’s.
We find that notice reasonably calculated to reach Soa`i was given for at
least two family meetings which she did not attend. We further find that
there was at least one family gathering that was publicly noticed through
the media and was attended by members of both clans, including
members of Soa`i’s immediate family. We find that this meeting
concluded in a family consensus to not only appoint Aso as the successor
matai but to present him the `ava cup as well. There, the `ava cup was
indeed presented to Aso before the assembled clans, significantly
without objection.
We are satisfied on the evidence that Aso’s candidacy enjoys the support
of all of the family’s clans.
3. Forcefulness, Character and Personality, and Knowledge of Samoan
Customs
While these factors tend to lend themselves to subjective assessment, we
find that the parties’s personal achievements demonstrably favor a
finding in favor of Aso in terms of forcefulness. His education, career,
and positions held within his church speak somewhat louder in terms of
ambition and personal accomplishment. Judging by the number of
important government commissions to which Aso has been appointed,
his achievements have also apparently weighed with the American
Samoa Government.
[2] On matters of character and personality, we were differently
impressed with the parties’ respective reaction to the family’s decision
on Aso’s succession. Rather than immediately offering the matai title
for registration with the Territorial Registrar’s Office, following the
family’s favorable decision, Aso delayed doing so first seeking
reconciliation with Soa`i. The latter’s response, however, was
confrontational in essence, as she then offered the title herself for
registration, absent any indication of family endorsement, and in effect
attempting to by-pass the family altogether. In terms then of character
and personality, we find Aso to be more conciliatory in tone and outlook.
These are valuable personal traits showing the more promising aptitude

for enhancing family harmony.
With regard to knowledge of Samoan customs, we find that Aso’s
experience and responses to the Associate Judges’ questions,
demonstrated better familiarity with matters of Samoan customs.
In terms of this third criterion, we conclude that Aso prevails.
4. Value to government, village, and family
We have already alluded above to Aso’s demonstrated value to the
Government on the basis of his membership on a number of important
government commissions. These include membership on the Board of
Higher Education; HIV-AIDS Committee; Department of Health’s
Executive Committee; Tobacco Control Committee; the Data
Committee; Preventive Health Committee; Dog Control Program
Committee; and the hospital’s Disciplinary Actions Committee. While
both parties have served the local government admirably in their
respective career positions, Aso emerges ahead on this factor with his
appointment to the various government commissions he has been called
to serve on.
With regards to value to the village, Aso’s involvement with village
affairs has been more pronounced in terms of his service as a lesser
matai of the Utofili family, his attendance to village council gatherings
and participation in village fund raising. As a lesser matai, and since
assuming the mantle of family spokesman by his being awarded the `ava
cup, Aso has enjoyed some measure of recognition and stature as
spokesman on inter-family occasions. At the same time, since he enjoys
strong family support and following, he is, therefore, better situated to
lead the family and take on the burdens and responsibilities of family
sa`o. Coupled with his conciliatory strengths, Aso quite clearly shows
the stronger potential to serve the family more effectively.
We also find that Aso prevails on this criteria.
Conclusions
On the foregoing, we conclude that Aso is qualified to hold the title
Utofili. While Soa`i prevails on hereditary considerations, Aso prevails
over Soa`i on the second, third, and fourth criteria. The Territorial
Registrar shall, in accordance with A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(b), register the
matai title Utofili, attached to the Village of Fagaitua, in candidate
Asofa`afetai A. Maga.
It is so ordered.