Asst PD Michael White appointed as ASG Public Defender
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has appointed Michael White as ASG Public Defender (PD). White was appointed as the interim PD earlier this year in May, a few days after former PD, Douglas Fiaui resigned from the post.
In his letter to the Fono regarding White's appointment, Lolo said he is pleased to present White for the position of PD for a four-year term, to fill the leadership void created by the departure of the previous PD.
White is a 1981 graduate of Georgia Southern University (B.S in Criminal Justice) and a 1985 graduate of Woodrow Wilson College of Law (J.D. cum laude). For the last seven years, he has served as assistant public defender in the PD's office. In this capacity, White has represented a broad range of clients of diverse nationalities charged with criminal offenses in the territory, Lolo pointed out.
For six years, White was in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he represented hundreds of clients charged with criminal offenses throughout the state. Before that, the nominee held the position of Director of Public Defender for the Northern Judicial Circuit in Elberton, Georgia.
White is a member of the American Samoa Bar Association and the State Bar of Georgia.
White's appointment as PD was announced during last week’s cabinet meeting and Lolo has asked cabinet members to give White their full support.
“One of the huge advantages in this Administration is the collaboration among leaders. To get things done, and to accomplish a lot of things we're working on, we need to collaborate and work together as a team,” Lolo told his cabinet.
He told White that if he ever needs help, “You have the Attorney General to work with, our legal team is also there for you whenever you need assistance.”
White's appointment was introduced in the Fono this week.
The future of the PD’s Office was in limbo when Fiaui officially resigned from the post in the beginning of May of this year while he was still off island for family issues. About a month later, on June 12, an assistant public defender was set to leave the office as well, following the completion of her 2-year contract.
From June up until now, the PD’s Office only has two attorneys. White, who is handling the High Court calendar, and Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson who handles District Court cases.
A copy of Fiaui’s resignation letter was delivered to the Governor’s Office.
The Governor, in a memo, then said it’s important that legal service to the residents of American Samoa are not disrupted due to the resignation of Mr. Fiaui. He declared his “administration is committed to ensuring that the best legal services are rendered to our people, who might require legal assistance.”
At the time, an individual who is familiar with operations at the PD’s Office told Samoa News that the PD office is facing a host issues.
“The office is now in limbo because the acting PD can't do anything. There’s a shortage of attorneys and there is a need to hire more staff,” the source said.
It was also noted that the printer was not working, and office computers were inoperable, meaning attorneys had to bring their own laptops to do their work, and had to provide their own paper and printing ink.