Tavai v. Pone;

KALEOPA TAVAl and MEMlBERS OF THE PONE FAMILY, Petitioners

v.

PONE MISIMOA, Respondent

PONE AUELUA, Plaintiff,

v.

KALOLO PU'A, his wife and children;
PATOLO PU'A, his wife and children;
MALAEA PU'A and all her children, .Defendants

MT No.7-84
LT No. 037-85

High Court of American Samoa

Trial Division

May 15, 1986

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Where evidence in case involving petition for removal of a matai showed that the matai had served well for twenty-six years and retained the active support of some family members and the affection of almost all, court would not order his removal but would order him to meet with petitioners and make every effort to become reconciled with them.

When senior matai of a family brought action to evict family members from communal land after they had insulted and threatened him, but .family members had formerly rendered service to him for many years and had given their labor and money to build family guest house, court would not order eviction but would order them to show respect for matai and refrain from disrupting peace and harmony of the family and village.

Before REES, Chief Justice, LUALEMAGA. Associate Judge, AFUOLA, Associate Judge, and VAIVAO, Associate Judge.

Counsel: For the Petitioners/Defendants, Asaua Fuimaono [3ASR2d10]
For the Respondent/Plaintiff, Malaetasi Togafau

Kaleopa Tavai and thirty-nine others petitioned the High Court for the removal of the Pone title of from Pone Auelua. The petitioners alleged that they were blood members of the Pone family; that members of the family had quarrelled and that Pone had failed to bring peace to the family; that Pone had himself taken sides against family members contrary to customary procedures; that Pone had failed to attend fa'alavelaves at the family's home village of Fagali'i and other places,. and to perform other duties of a matai; and that Pone had refused to become reconciled with members of the family. Pone Auelua denied these allegations, appending a petition from about a hundred persons claiming to be blood members of the Pone family who opposed his removal, and also brought a separate action seeking the eviction of some of the original petitioners from Pone family land. The two actions were consolidated at trial.

There was conflicting testimony on almost all important points, including whether various people on both sides were really blood members of the Pone family. Certain facts, however, are clear: Pone Misimoa is a good man who has served the family loyally and well during most of the twenty-six years he has held the title. He retains the active support of some family members and the affection of almost all. For some years, however, Pone Misimoa and some other family members have been at odds with the children of Malaea Pu'a.

Although Pone Auelua has expressed doubts about whether the Pu'as are blood members of the Pone family, there was convincing evidence at trial that they are blood members. It is in any case undisputed that they have lived on family land as family members for some years now. They contributed not only their labor but also their money to te building of family guest house, and for many years rendered service not to Pone but to another person. There was evidence that some of the Pu'as had insulted and even threatened Pone and that some members of the family were frightened of them. Nevertheless, even assuming that the Pu'as were entirely to blame at first, it seems to the Court that Pone should have attempted more vigorously to restore peace within his family and [3ASR2d11]to become reconciled with all members of his family.

Accordingly, it is the judgment of the Court that Pone shall not be removed, but shall meet with the petitioners and make every effort to become reconciled with them. It is further judgment of the Court that the Pu'as shall not be evicted from Pone family land, but shall render service to Pone and show him all the respect due him as senior matai of the family in accordance with Samoan custom, and shall refrain from any actions that are disruptive of peace and harmony within the family and the village. It is hereby so ordered.

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