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1.0409 Disputed claims-Hearing- Determination-Certificate issued when.

Cite as [A.S.C.A. § 1.0409 ]

(a) The High Court shall hear and determine any disputed claim and after decision shall certify the successor to the title as determined by law to the Territorial Registrar for registration.

(b) The Territorial Registrar, upon receiving the certification of the court, shall issue to the successful claimant a certificate of registration as in the case of undisputed claims.

(c) In the trial of title cases, the High Court shall be guided by the following considerations, in the priority listed:

(1) the best hereditary right, as to which the male and female descendants are equal in families where this has been customary: otherwise the male descendant prevails over the female:

(2) the wish of the majority or plurality of those clans of the family as customary in that family;

(3) the forcefulness, character and personality of the persons under consideration for the title, and their knowledge of Samoan customs; and

(4) the value of the holder of the title to the family, village, and country.

(d) The court shall issue a written decision that must contain finding of facts and conclu-sions of law on each issue under (c) above.

History: 1962, PL 7-38; 1968, PL 10-61; 1970 PL 11-11 amd 1982, PL 17-43 § 1.

Amendments: 1982 Amended generally: subsection (d) added.

Case Notes.

In re “Tuilefano”, ASR (1979).

Proper to discount an issue from consideration where the evidence on that issue is unreliable Tuiagamoa v. Tomasi, ASR (1977).

“Thc value of the holder of the matai title to the family, village and the country” means the future value of matai title claimant. RCAS 6.0107; In re Matai Title Sala, 4 ASR 2l (1971).

All members of Samoan family enjoy equal rights and privileges under clan system-one clan cannot be “favored” over others in selecting matai. RCAS 6.0107; in re Matai Title Salave’a, 4 ASR 44 (1971).

Statutory requirement that court consider “which” of the majority or plurality of those clans of the family as customary in that family” means that matai candidate must have full support of at least 2 out of 3 clans in 3-clan family. RCAS 6.0107. Asuega v. Manuma, 4 ASR 616 (1965).

Blood daughter prevails over grandson on issue of hereditary right to matai title under Samoan custom RCAS 6.0107; Tuaolo v. Tutogi, 4 ASR 488 (1964).

Where majority of family favors objector as title holder, and only applicant and her children prefer applicant, objector prevails on issue of wish of majority of family in determination of matai under Samoan customs. RCAS 6.0107; Tuaolo v Tutogi. 4 ASR 488 (1964).

In choosing matai candidate, Court will consider forcefulness, character, personality, knowledge of Samoan customs, value to family, village and country, personal demeanor, presence of mind, clarity, speed and correctness of answers, candidness, ability to withstand cross-examination, education, self-confidence, speech and behavior, RCAS 6.0107; Asuega v. Manuma. 4 ASR 616 (l965).

Code prescribes qualifications which person must have to be eligible to succeed to matai title RCAS 6.0107 Taufaasau v. Manuma; 4 ASR 947 (1967): RCAS 6.0107; Utu v. Aumoeualogo, 4 ASR 906 (1964). RCAS 6.0107; Reid v. Talalele. 4 ASR 458 (1964): RCAS 6.0101; 6.0107; Veve v. Faatama. 4 ASR 418 (1963).

Statute which lists the priority of criteria with which the Court is to evaluate matai candidates requires only that the Court give more weight to each criterion than to each of those which follow it; some consideration should also be given to the relative margins by which various candidates prevail on each of the four criteria. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Tauala, 15 A.S.R.2d 65 (1990).

When different sides of a family reasonably differ on the identity of original titleholder, court would assess hereditary entitlement of matai title contestants according to each party's closest proven relation to a previous titleholder. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c). In re Matai Title "Tauaifaiva", page 13.

In considering statutory criteria for matai titles, court should always be guided by overriding purpose of the statute, which is to preserve Samoan culture. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409; In re Matai Title Ma'ae, 6 A.S.R.2d 75 (1987).

Family tradition empowering senior matai to designate holder of a lesser title within the family would, if proven, be relevant to determination by court of whether candidates had hereditary rights to title, family support "as customary in the family," and value of candidates to the family, village, and country. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Ma'ae, 6 A.S.R.2d 75 (1987).

Rule of heredity that arose in previous trial court decision was not binding precedent when rule resulted from "judicial notice" of Samoan custom that ignored stark variation among different families' practices, rule was stipulated by the parties rather than according to each party's closest proven relation to a previous titleholder. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) . In re Matai Title "Tauifaiva", page 13.

Candidate for matai title who had been using the title illegally for several years while objections to his candidacy were pending, would ordinarily not prevail on statutory criterion of value to family, village, and country. A.S.C.A. §§ 1.0409, 1.0414. In re matai Title Muagututi'a, 14 A.S.R.2d 67 (1990).

Where one candidate for matai title proved his fitness to hold the title under three of the four statutory criteria, and the only other candidate knew of the trial date but failed to appear, the candidate who did appear would be held best qualified to hold the title. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Muagututi'a, 14 A.S.R.2d 67 (1990).

Difficulty of assessing family or clan support for candidates for a matai title is compounded by the fact that Samoan families traditionally make decisions not by pure majoritarian democracy but by consensus. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Tauala, 14 A.S.R.2d 83 (1990).

Where one of the competing candidates has illegally undergone traditional ceremonies which made him the matai in the eyes of many family members, some of these members might regard themselves as bound to support him whether or not they believe he is or will be a good matai; it is thus practically impossible to make a fair and accurate comparison of his support with that of a candidate who has not illegally seized such a strategic advantage. A.S.C.A §1.0409. In re Matai Title Tauala, 14 A.S.R.2d 83 (1990).

Candidate for matai title who lied under oath about his convictions by military tribunals, and who had deliberately violated numerous court orders, would not prevail on the statutory criterion of forcefulness, character, personality, and knowledge of Samoan custom. A.S.C.A § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Tauala, 14 A.S.R.2d 83 (1990).

Candidate for a matai title who best satisfied the statutory criterion of hereditary right to the title did so by showing the shortest route of descent from a past title holder, even though such descent was via an adopted side of the family. A.S.C.A § 1.0409(c). In re Matai Title Iuli, 14 A.S.R.2d 116 (1990).

No candidate for a matai title best satisfied the statutory criterion of the support of the clans where the candidates disagreed on the identities of the original and subsequent titleholders and family meetings considering the candidates ended inconclusively. A.S.C.A § 1.0409 (c). In re Matai Title Iuli, 14 A.S.R.2d 116 (1990).

Candidate for a matai title who best satisfied the statutory criterion of forcefulness, character, personality, and knowledge of Samoan custom did so based on his long term experience as a comparably ranked titleholder and administrator, which familiarized him with Samoan custom and enhanced his administrative and leadership skills and his ability to fulfill the responsibilities and duties of the title. A.S.C.A § 1.0409 (c). In re Matai Title Iuli, 14 A.S.R.2d 116 (1990).

Candidate for a matai title who best satisfied the statutory criterion of value to family, village, and country did so based on his familiarity with the demands of office gained by long tenure as a comparably ranked titleholder; his rapport and standing with fellow matai; his credibility; his seniority; his singular commitment to the educational needs of the community as evinced by his long career in education and government; and his ability to settle familial dissension. A.S.C.A § 1.0409 (c). In re Matai Title Iuli, 14 A.S.R.2d 116 (1990).

Statute which lists the priority of criteria with which the Court is to evaluate matai candidates requires only that the Court give more weight to each criterion than to each of those which follow it; some consideration should also be given to the relative margins by which various candidates prevail on each of the four criteria. A.S.C.A § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Tauala, 15 A.S.R.2d 65 (1990).

A blood right to a matai title is based on direct descent from the title he claims; no decisions of this Court support a blood right to a matai title solely based on “blood descent” from the titleholder’s sister, nor is such consistent with any of the Court’s formulae employed to determine “hereditary right.” A.S.C.A § 1.0409 (c) (1). In re Matai Title Mulitauaopele, 16 A.S.R.2d 63 (1990).

The statutory “best hereditary right” criterion does not require the court to extinguish a family line whenever it appears that a matai obtained his title, prior to the enactment of the statute, for a reason other that blood descent. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Mulitauaopele, 17 A.S.R.2d 75 (1990).

Since the statutory adoption of the “hereditary right” criterion, the court is not free to award a disputed matai title to a person who is not descended from a previous titleholder. A.S.C.A § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Mulitauaopele, 17 A.S.R.2d 75 (1990).

The matai-title statute does not give the court the power to retroactively apply the four statutory criteria to events that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago. A.S.C.A § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Mulitauaopele, 17 A.S.R.2d 75 (1990).

The High Court will make findings of fact on the statutory criteria in awarding a matai title when the family had an opportunity to reach a consensus but failed to do so. A.S.C.A § 1.0409. In re Matai Title Atiumaletavai, 21 A.S.R.2d 88 (1992).

Although the High Court’s matai-title decisions frequently include substantial comparative discussions of title candidates’ qualifications under each of the four statutory criteria, the only legal requirement is a written decision containing findings of fact and conclusions of law on each of the four statutory criteria. A.S.C.A § 1.0409(c); T.C.R.C.P. 52(a). In re Matai Title “Atiumaletavai”, 22 A.S.R.2d 94 (1992).

In a matai-title case, the court is guided by four statutory criteria: (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. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) . In re Matai Title Paopaoailua, 24 A.S.R.2d 7 (1993).

Determining best hereditary right is traditionally guided by the percentage of matai-title candidates blood relationship to a former titleholder, though in unusual cases it may be appropriate to calculate blood relationships from the original titleholders or the nearest common ancestor. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409 (c) (1). Registration of Matai Title “Le’aeno”, 24 A.S.R.2d 117 (1993).

Clan support for matai-title candidates is traditionally measured by consensus and not by a mere numerical majority. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409 (C) (2). Registration of Matai Title “Le’aeno”, 24 A.S.R.2d 117 (1993).

The matai-title criterion of value to family, village, and country seeks to evaluate a candidate’s prospective value to his family, village, and American Samoa as holder of the title, in light of the first three

statutory criteria and his leadership potential and plans. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c)(4). Registration of Matai Title “Le’aeno”, 24 A.S.R.2d 117 (1993).

A matai title bestowed contrary to statute cannot be registered or otherwise recognized; and use of an unregistered matai title is a criminal act. A.S.C.A. §§ 1.0401-1.0414. Toilolo v. Poti, 23 A.S.R.2d 130 (1993).

Regarding the criterion of the forcefulness, character, and personality of a matai-title candidate and his knowledge of Samoan customs, factors considered include leadership ability, honesty, education, public service, involvement in church and village affairs, and previous experience as a matai. A.S.C.A. § 1.0409(c) (3). Registration of Matai Title "Le'aeno", 24 A.S.R.2d 117 (1993).