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New ALJ Marie Ala’ilima

[photo: FS]

Newly confirmed Administrative Law Judge, Marie A. Ala’ilima (middle) with her husband, Commerce director Keniseli Lafaele (left) and relative Leiataua Leuga Turner (right) pictured yesterday at the Fono compound after her Senate confirmation hearing, which lasted about 15-minutes. She was later confirmed in a unanimous 18-0 vote. The ALJ appointee is subject to Senate confirmation only.

Ala’ilima had been serving as ALJ Pro Tempore since 2007. She was asked during yesterday’s hearing about her private practice, and Ala’ilima explained that for five years now, she has not accepted any new cases.

According to local law, the ALJ shall devote full time to the performance of duties and shall not otherwise engage in the private or public practice of law during the term in office.

Responding to a committee questions, Ala’ilima — who has been a member of the American Samoa Bar Association since 1996, when she started practicing law in the territory — gave a brief explanation regarding the the duties of the Office of the ALJ, which is an independent entity of the Executive Branch.

Many of the ALJ cases deal with challenges and appeals filed by an individual over decisions made by ASG boards and commission. It also hears cases filed by ASG employees, who challenge or appeal of decisions made by ASG directors.

In his nomination letter Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga informed the Senate that Ala’ilima “is highly qualify for this position.” She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also received her Juris Doctorate degree.

Lolo also said that it “would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the long and distinguished career” of Toetagata, whom as a former American Samoa Attorney General, Public Defender, and ALJ “has made significant contributions to the betterment of our legal community.”

“We express our deepest appreciation for his years of faithful service to the administration of justice in American Samoa,” the governor noted.

According to Samoa News records, Alailima is now the third ALJ, since this office and post was established by law in year 2000. The first ALJ was the late former Attorney General and lawmaker, Sialega Malaetasi Mauga Togafau, followed by Toetagata.