Samoa Law Society to re-lay charges against reinstated lawyer

APIA: FRIDAY 8 MARCH 2013 — Charges of mis-use of a client’s funds are to be re-filed against lawyer Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio by the Samoa Law Society.
That was a decision made by the Council of the Law Society this morning, President Leota Raymond Schuster said today.
The decision is the latest development in a matter between the Society and the lawyer of several years standing.
The saga started when a client of Tuala’s laid a complaint with the law society alleging mis-use of funds by the lawyer.
The council of the law society appointed a disciplinary committee to investigate the complaint on March 2010.
The disciplinary committee recommended to the council of the law society, that Tuala be charged – and this was done.
Four charges were laid against Tuala which were heard by a Tribunal.
The tribunal members were Rosella Papali’i, Leota Raymond Shuster, Mareva Annandale Betham, Ioane Okesene and Samuel Lesley Petaia.
Tuala was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Tribunal on 26 November 2010.
Tuala did not agree with the Tribunal and appealed the matter in the Supreme Court.
His appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 31 May 2011, so he took the matter to the Court of Appeal.
The council of the law society on 12 June 2012 imposed an interim suspension of Tuala.
The decision to suspend Ponifasio was made on 12 June 2012.
Earlier this year the Appeal Court agreed with Tuala and set aside the decision by the Supreme Court in 2011.
The Appeal Court found that the 2012 suspension of Tuala was void and set aside on the basis of bias and no impartiality on the part of the members of the council.
It said that those who charged Tuala who also sat on the tribunal to hear the charges and then made the decision to suspend the practitioner.
The council of the law society accepted the decision by the Appeal Court and re-issued Tuala’s certificate to practice as a lawyer.
Today Leota said the decision by the Appeal Court that went against the law society was not the end of the matter.


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