40 Years of Promoting Justice in American Samoa
For the last 40 years the American Samoa Bar Association has been working diligently to promote justice in the territory. Anniversaries are an excellent opportunity to review the past and look forward to the future. As we undergo this process, we invite the public to join us looking back on our history, and celebrating our future.
40 years ago, a group of attorneys got together determined to promote justice throughout the territory. They used an untouched statute enabling a bar association, and created an organization that has worked on behalf of the legal system and the community for decades. Their work was so important that the American Bar Association recognized their achievements with an award of special merit in 1974. Last year, the Western Samoa Law Society recognized late Governor Uifaatali Peter Tali Coleman as the first Samoan attorney to practice in the Samoas.
Two of the Bar’s founding members, Coleman and A.P. Lutali, went on to become Governors of American Samoa. Both the current Governor, Togiola T.A. Tulafono, and the Lieutenant Governor are Bar members, and countless otherBar members have become important civic and community leaders.
The Bar has continuously worked to bring the rule of law to the people. Throughout the years, the Bar has hosted a number of legal symposium, panels, and trainings. In the late 70's and early 80's the Bar published the Samoa Pacific Law Journal, which provided legal news and analysis affecting the territory. In 2003, the Bar launched ASBAR.org, which provides the only online access to the territory's laws. Over the years, the Bar has hosted election debates, and provided legal comments on Fono bills; commented on the Constitutional Convention, and explained complex legal issues to the public. After the 2009 tsunami, the Bar partnered with FEMA and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division to provide disaster legal services to those in need.
Last year the Bar joined the American Bar Association and elected Mr. Charles Alailimaas the territory's first ABA Delegate. This February, American Samoa took its seat in the ABA House of Delegates and cast its first vote.
The Bar will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary with a series of events intended to highlight justice issues throughout the Territory. In the next couple of weeks, the Bar will be launching a new ASBAR.org site. The upgraded site will feature improved access to information and more features for both Bar members and the public. One of the greatest services the Bar is access to the laws of American Samoa. Therefore, the legal resources section will offer new search functions, with a more intuitive organization. Easier access will lead to improved research.
From April 28th to May 1st, the Bar will join the entire world in celebrating International Law Day, and the entire community is invited to celebrate with us. On April 28th, the Bar will be hosting a law conference featuring key speakers from the territory tackling important issues. During the conference, there will be a panel discussion to determine the effects of citizenship on the Territory. The Bar will also present the first annual Arthur A. Morrow Justice Award to an individual who has greatly contributed to promoting justice in American Samoa. The public is invited and encouraged to attend both events. That evening, Bar members will hold their annual meeting.
It's an exciting year for the legal community. It is an election year, with the promise of an exciting gubernatorial race. New lawsuits are being filed on the mainland that could significantly alter the legal framework of the territories. To address these and other issues, the Bar will be hosting other events throughout the year and will keep the community updated. It is only with the help and trust of the community that we can succeed, and the Bar will continue to reach out to the people of American Samoa.
In the life of the legal profession, 40 years is not much, but the accomplishments of the American Samoa Bar Association in such a short amount of time are laudable. We look forward to promoting justice for the next 40 years by standing on the shoulders of those giants of the legal profession before us.