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TUILEFANO M. VAELA`A,v.VALENTINO TAUFA`ASAU, UTAIFEAU T. MAUGAASUEGA, FANENE F. KAVA SEALI`ITU F. MAUGA,and MAILO ATONIO

 

TUILEFANO M. VAELA`A, Claimant
v.
VALENTINO TAUFA`ASAU, UTAIFEAU T. MAUGA
ASUEGA, FANENE F. KAVA SEALI`ITU F. MAUGA,
and MAILO ATONIO, Counter-claimants
____________________
[In re Matai Title “MAUGA” of the Village of Pago Pago]
High Court of American Samoa
Land and Titles Division
MT No. 12-98
April 3, 2002

 

[1] At the court’s discretion, it may grant a stay, pending appeal, of the
execution of judgment in a civil action.
[2] The court’s discretion to grant the stay pending appeal should be
exercised only for cause shown and a stay should not be granted
casually.
[3] In order to demonstrate good cause for a stay pending appeal, the
moving party must establish: 1) failure to grant the stay would cause
irreparable harm; 2) a likelihood of success on appeal; and 3) the public
interest would be harmed by not granting the stay.
[4] Monetary loss does not constitute irreparable harm.
[5] Part of assessing irreparable harm when considering a stay involves
the balancing of equities.
[6] Where Appellant sought stay of investiture ceremony pending appeal
of matai title decision, equities weighed against stay, as investiture
ceremony would not affect outcome of appeal and Appellant could
nonetheless attend ceremony and avoid family unrest. Contrarily,
granting stay would negatively impact a significantly greater number of

people which could result in more family turmoil.
[7] A civil appeal is limited to the issues which were raised in the motion
for new trial. The appellate court has no jurisdiction to consider any
other issues.
[8] An appeal which merely suggests that the losing party’s arguments
and factual position were better and should have prevailed, without
showing clear error on the part of the trial court, is not likely to succeed.
[9] Although public interest tends to favor simple solutions without
controversy, where court believed that discord would result if the
investiture ceremony was delayed, where vast majority of family
supported court-sanctioned candidate and were already investing in title
investiture ceremony, and where family had previously delayed matai
selection process for many years, court determined that public interest
could be equally or more greatly harmed by delaying investiture
ceremony as by allowing it to continue.
Before KRUSE, Chief Justice, LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge,
ATIULAGI, Associate Judge and TAUANU`U, Temporary Associate
Judge.
Counsel: For Tuilefano M. Vaela`a, Afoa LS. Lutu and Arthur Ripley,
Jr.
For Utaifeau T.M. Asuega, Asaua Fuimaono
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STAY
JUDGMENT PENDING APPEAL

On December 14, 2001, this Court entered judgment awarding the matai
title Mauga of Pago Pago to Uta`ifeau T.M. Asuega (“Uta`ifeau”).
Claimant Tuilefano M. Vaela`a (“Tuilefano”) filed a motion for a new
trial, which was denied, and then filed for an appeal. None of the other
candidate-claimants, and hence their respective supporters, have taken
further issue with the trial court’s decision. Claimant Tuilefano now
moves this court to stay the judgment pending his appeal. As Uta`ifeau
has already procured registration of the title, Tuilefano is essentially
asking the court to enjoin the title investiture ceremony that Uta`ifeau
and remaining members of the Mauga family have already begun
planning to take place later this month.
[1-3] The court may grant a stay of execution pending appeal, beyond
the ten days after an order is issued, at the court’s discretion. T.C.R.C.P.
62. The court’s discretion to grant the stay, however, should be

exercised only for cause shown and a stay should not be granted
casually. Asifoa v. Faoa, 71 A.S.R. 10, 12 (App. Div. 1990). The
moving party must establish: 1) failure to grant the stay would cause
irreparable harm; 2) a likelihood of success on appeal; and 3) the public
interest would be harmed by not granting the stay. In re Matai Title
Mulitauaopele, 17 A.S.R.2d 71, 73 (Land & Titles Div. 1990).
Discussion
1. Irreparable Harm
Tuilefano’s arguments for irreparable harm focus on the potential for
disharmony in the family if a title investiture ceremony takes place
without his and his supporter’s participation. As we understand the
argument, there are family members who still support Tuilefano’s
candidacy pending appeal, and who will not be able to exercise their
rights as family members to participate in the investiture ceremony while
the appeal is pending. It is also claimed that these family members who
support his appeal will be ostracized for non-participation. Hence, it is
claimed, disharmony will result.
Tuilefano further argues that if he wins on appeal, and title investiture
has already taken place, there would be disharmony and confusion
concerning the title, and monetary expenses would have been wasted on
the pending ceremony.
[4] First, we reject Tuilefano’s wasted-money argument as constituting
irreparable harm. Monetary loss is the very prototype of reparable harm.
Whether the expense of a Samoan title investiture ceremony might later
prove to be a colossal waste of money, because of a subsequent appellate
ruling, the economic harm resulting would hardly inure to the irreparable
harm of the Mauga family, as a Samoan institution, and to those
members who choose to participate. There is simply no evidence to
suggest this. To the contrary, experience teaches otherwise. There have
been, albeit infrequently, instances whereby the cost of an investiture
ceremony has been for naught, because of a later appellate ruling. But in
these instances, the fa`a Samoa and the traditional institutions of matai
and family have nonetheless continued to endure notwithstanding the
outward economic waste.
Second, the claim to ostracism is just that, a claim (in part attributable to
“golf course” rumors). When Uta`ifeau was confronted with these
claims, he assured under oath that such claims had no basis in fact.
[5-6] Part of assessing irreparable harm when considering a stay involves

the balancing of equities. T.C.R.C.P. 62 (a), (c); Asifoa, 71 A.S.R.2d at
12, 13. If Tuilefano’s motion is denied, he and his supporters would
have a choice—to either attend the investiture ceremony or not attend.
Whether they attend or not has absolutely no prejudicial effect
whatsoever on the merits of Tuilefano’s appeal. Choosing not to attend
would potentially have a negative impact on the harmony of the family.
Choosing to attend, however, while it might be seen by some as a sign of
acquiescence, could equally be viewed by others as a noble effort to
maintain honor, and family harmony, while the appeal is pending.
If the motion is granted, the investiture ceremony, for which the entire
family besides Tuilefano’s supporters is preparing, would be put on hold
until the appeals process is complete. The title would remain
symbolically unfulfilled, and the great majority of the family would
likely be unhappy with the delay, inevitably creating significant discord.
Balancing the equities produces a result in favor of allowing the
investiture to continue as planned. While either result could lead to
discord, granting the stay negatively impacts a significantly greater
number of people which could result in as much or more unrest as not
granting the stay. Additionally, if the stay is not granted, Tuilefano and
his supporters still would have the option to attend, avoiding most of the
potential for discord while not affecting his legal claims in the slightest.
2. Likelihood of Success on Appeal
[7-8] The likelihood of success on appeal is also a factor that weighs in
favor of denying the motion. Tuilefano’s appeal is limited only to those
issues which were raised in his motion for new trial, since the appellate
court has no jurisdiction to consider any issues not raised on his motion
for new trial. See Kim v. Star-Kist Samoa, Inc., 8 A.S.R.2d 146, 149-50
(App. Div. 1988). A review of Tuilefano’s appeal, combined with his
arguments, submitted both orally and in writing, has hardly shown a high
likelihood of success on appeal. In fact, the thrust of his appeal seems
principally to be in the way of a quarrel with this court’s factual
assessments, void of substantive legal argument. An appeal which
merely suggests that the losing party’s arguments and factual position
were better and should have prevailed, without showing clear error on
the part of the trial court, is not likely to succeed. See Moea`i v. Alai`a,
12 A.S.R.2d 91, 92 (App. Div. 1989); Utuutuvanu v. Mataituli, 12
A.S.R.2d 88, 90 (App. Div. 1989) (“It is not within the province of the
appellate court to reweigh the evidence and interfere with a decision
based on the lower court’s choice of one version of the facts over
another”).
3. Public Interest

[9] Like his arguments concerning irreparable harm, Tuilefano’s efforts
to show that the public interest demands a stay of execution focuses on
the potential discord of allowing an investiture ceremony to take place
while the appeal could still be granted. While it is true that the public
interest would favor a simple solution without controversy, discord
would also result if the pending ceremony is delayed because of the
interests of one faction of the family. None of the other candidates for
this title have challenged the appointment of Uta`ifeau, and they
represent the vast majority of the family, which is apparently already
investing in the title investiture ceremony.
Lastly, as Tuilefano acknowledges, the title Mauga has national and
historical significance. But the title has been vacant for many, many
years while the Mauga heirs struggled with the vicissitudes of a
traditional decision making process that promotes indefinite
postponement in the absence of consensus. In the meantime, Mauga’s
extended family, the Tei ma Anoalo, Matua ma Nofofanau, ma
Anoaloifale, and the village of Pago Pago, have had to sit by patiently
throughout this inordinate time frame. The solidarity of their presence in
court at the hearing of the motion to stay did not escape the attention of
Associate Judges. Undoubtedly, these third-parties no less demand
continuity with their traditional institutions now long held in abeyance
while a successor Mauga titleholder was being sought. These
countervailing factors must, at least for the historically significant
Mauga title, enter into the public interest assessment.
In our view, the public interest could be equally or more greatly harmed
by delaying the investiture ceremony at this point as by allowing it to
continue.
Order
We conclude that claimant has not shown sufficient cause to warrant this
court staying execution of judgment or imposing an injunction on a title
investiture ceremony pending appeal. Accordingly, the motion to stay
execution, and/or for injunctive relief, is denied.
It is so ordered.