Fiti Sunia appointed as new Associate Justice of the High Court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Fiti Alexander Sunia has been appointed by the US Secretary of Interior as the new Associate Justice of the High Court of American Samoa, a post that has been vacant for a while, following the retirement of then Associate Justice Lyle Richmond.
It was more than two years ago that the US Interior Secretary appointed District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea to serve as Acting Associate Justice.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga “has received notification on the appointment of Fiti Sunia as the new Associate Justice through the official communication received” last Friday morning, said the governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira last Friday afternoon.
In accordance with the local constitution and law, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justice of the High Court of American Samoa are appointed by the Interior Secretary. And they are both federal employees with salaries paid by the DOI.
Samoa News wasn’t immediately able to confirm when the 57-year-old Sunia will officially take on his new post in High Court.
Prior to being confirmed by the Senate in January 2016, as District Court Judge, Sunia had already served as District Court Judge Pro Temp for more than a year .
He earned his Juris Doctorate at Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C. and is a member of the Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and American Samoa Bar Association, according to background information the Governor’s Office provided to the Senate in January 2016.
Sunia practiced law in D.C. for several years before returning to American Samoa in 1997, whereby he joined the AG’s Office and served as Attorney General for three years. Prior to joining the Judicial Branch, Sunia had a private practice which was opened in 2005.
In July 2018, the governor announced that he had been informed by DOI’s Office of Insular and International Affairs, after consultation with the federal Offices of the Solicitor and Human Resources, as well as another federal agency, that the Associate Justice position was being advertised to avail the opportunity to all interested parties to apply.
Lolo at the time encouraged members of the American Samoa Bar Association to take advantage of the opportunity. The governor thanked DOI for their quick action in filling this important post, given the growing backlog of cases at the High Court requiring adjudication.
The position was advertised only through a hyperlink on a federal online domain, which shows an annual salary of $124,497 to $161,845.
See Samoa News' online story July 26, 2018 for the link to the job description.