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High Court justices to preside in District Court

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate has expedited approval of an administration bill, which allows Justices of the High Court to preside in District Court. The measure, which was introduced last Wednesday and approved by the Senate this past Tuesday, now goes to the House, where its version is in committee.

 “There are times wherein due to illness, absence, or conflicts that it becomes difficult to assign district court judges to preside in District Court,” acting governor Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga wrote to Fono leaders.

 “The continued operation of the District Court is required by law, as it is a necessary forum to protect and uphold the rights of citizens,” said Lemanu, adding that the proposed law allows justices of the High Court the flexibility to preside, on a temporary basis, in District Court.

The bill, which would create a new section under local law, allows the Chief Justice, “in the interest of justice”, to designate and assign temporarily any High Court justice to preside in District Court.

During the period of designation and assignment, the Justice “may perform” any duty, assigned by the Chief Justice; and within the duties of the district court judge of the District Court, according to provision of the bill.

Furthermore, a Justice given temporary designation to preside in the District Court shall have all the power of a district court judge afforded by law.

The Fono’s final decision on the bill is not expected until July during the Second Regular Session, because the current session officially ended at the close of business Friday.