Vaioli; Sagatu v.




High Court of American Samoa
Appellate Division

AP. No. 01-86

October 31, 1986


Statute prohibiting anyone but senior matai of Samoan family from bringing action to enjoin activities on communal land did not prohibit another member of family from objecting to registration of land by another family. A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0103, 43.1309.

Before REES, Chief Justice, GARDNER*, Acting Associate Justice, KENNEDY**, Acting Associate Justice, AFUOLA, Associate Judge, and A'AU, Associate Judge.

Counsel: For the Appellant, Asaua Fuimaono
For the Appellee, Malaetasi Togafau


Appellee Vaioli sought to register 6 acres as communal land of the Vaioli family. Appellant Sagatu objected. He is a lesser matai of the Seigafolava family. He testified the land was the communal land of the Seigafolava family.

Seigafolava Pele is the senior matai or Sa'o of the Seigafolava family. He testified that this land does not belong to the Seigafolava family but to the Vaioli family. Therefore, he had no objection to this registration. The court held that Sagatu has no standing to object to this registration since the sa'o of the family had no objection.

That holding was error.

Under a section of the American Samoa Code Annotated labeled § 41.1309 but found in Title 43 (should be A.S.C.A § 43.1309) only the sa'o is authorized to bring an injunction action. This is not such an action. This is a land registration [3ASR2d98] proceeding. Under A.S.C.A § 37.0103anyone claiming an interest adverse to that of the applicant may file an adverse claim. Under that section this appellant had standing.

Thus the matter is remanded to the trial court for a decision on the merits.

*Honorable Robert Gardner, Chief Justice Emeritus, High Court of American Samoa, serving by designation of the Secretary of the Interior. ** Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, serving by designation of the Secretary or the Interior.