Busy Week For Judiciary As Gavel Bangs Into 2020

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  • New judge of the District Court Loau Donald Kerslake (far right)  on the bench with members of the judiciary
    New judge of the District Court Loau Donald Kerslake (far right)  on the bench with members of the judiciary

Deidre Fanene

Members of the Judiciary and the staff of the Ministry of Justice are keeping the court rooms at Mulinu’u moving again for the New Year 2020.

A prayer service at the start of the week to officially drag in the new workload, rolled off the new lineup of matters for the Supreme Court, District Court and the Lands and Titles Court to deal with.

Included will be a backlog of court hearings that is up to December already.

The District Court will have the helping hand of new judge Loau Donald Kerslake who was sworn in at the start of the weekend on Friday.

The Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, is determined to continue the work and progress within the Judiciary with plans to appoint new members of the bench.

A new judge for the Supreme Court is included in the plan that has started with Judge Loau appointed to the bench.

“These appointments are essential to meet the increasing number of cases brought in not only in the Lands and Titles Court but also before the civil and criminal courts,” Vui promised.

“The proliferation in cases are being matched only by the complexity and ingenuity of the arguments and issues being advance by the lawyers and the parties bringing such claims.”

Last year was stormy year not only for Samoa but also for the judiciary, according to Vui.

 “Last year was a turbulent year not only for the country culminating in the measles epidemic which tragically claimed the lives of many of the vulnerable, most of them innocent defenseless young children.

“But it was also a turbulent year for the courts, among other things we farewelled Chief Justice Sapolu who delivered loyal and faithful service to the rule of law for over 25 years.

“We boycotted and endured the parliamentary enquiries into the Lands and Titles Court system and unfortunate but understandable reaction by the judges of that court.

“We witness for the first time the suspension and dismissal of senior judicial and court officers and the retirement of others, we also witness the reinstatement by Parliament of the President of the LTC.

“This was no easy or pleasant year for the Judicial, the judges or the ministry and the court staff who had numerous disciplinary issues of their own.

“But in the words of a well-known quotation, “a bend is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn”.

“I believe we have turned the corner and emerge better and stronger for the journey.

“It is now time to look for the future and the development of the court.”

The Acting Chief Justice revealed the 3 main goals set out for the Ministry for this year.

“The Ministry has identifies its 3 key goals for this year, firstly the reduction of court delays, secondly, the improvement of its record management and data systems and thirdly, professional staff development and upgrading of the existing facilities like this building.

“From the judiciary point of view we are hopeful that the salaries will look with kindness on the recommendation of the report on the working conditions and entitlements of the Ministry review to improve the working condition and benefits on Judges.

“Only in this way can we retain the services of the experiences and competent Judge and recruit new ones willing to meet the sacrifice of the judicial life.”

He also mentions some of the developments that the government of Samoa is still supporting.

“We still continue to receive the support of the Prime Minister and Government of Samoa and the Minister of Justice to the ongoing initiative and programs of the court, such is essential to ensure the proper and efficient functioning of any stable vibrant and compressive society and we pray that this continues,” added Acting Chief Justice.

“In disregard the courts of this country have been also fortunate to secure the assistant of many development partners in particular the government of New Zealand and Australia through their various judicial and other programs such as the Pacific Judicial Participation Fund and Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative.

“All these, the court will manifest it-self in the programs planned for this year, beginning tomorrow is the five day workshop training for the now 24 judges of the Lands and Titles Court.

“Other measures will be adopted both by the Judiciary and the Ministry as the year progresses in order to cope with this ever increasing workload.”