Utu; Paolo v.

PAOLO SIVIA, MOENOA SIVIA, and PAOLO FAMILY,
Appellants

v.

UTU SINAGEGE and UTU FAMILY, Appellees

High Court of American Samoa
Appellate Division
[26ASR2d19]

AP No. 26-92
(LT No. 45-90)

April 5, 1994

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[1] In reviewing a decision of the Land and Titles Division or the Trial Division, the Appellate Division utilizes a "clear error" standard. This standard of review applies to the lower court's evaluation of witnesses' credibility.

Before RICHMOND, Associate Justice, CANBY, (1) Acting Associate Justice, MUNSON,(2) Acting Associate Justice, VAIVAO, Associate Judge, BETHAM, Associate Judge.

Counsel: For Appellants, Togiola T.A. Tulafono
For Appellees, Fainu`ulelei L.F. Ala`ilima-Utu

RICHMOND, Justice:

On November 10, 1993, oral arguments were heard in the appeal of the October 28, 1993, decision of the trial court. This decision found that the land at issue belonged to appellee Utu family and enjoined appellants from further construction on that land.

[1] In reviewing a decision of the Land and Titles Division or the Trial Division, the Appellate Division utilizes a "clear error" standard. A.S.C.A. § 43.0801 (b); T.C.R.C.P. 52 (a); see Moea`i v. Alai`a , 12 A.S.R.2d 91, 92 (App. Div. 1989); Tuileata Family v. Amituana`i, 8 A.S.R.2d 173, 175 (App. Div. 1988). This standard of review applies to the lower court's evaluation of witnesses' credibility. Moea`i, 12 A.S.R.2d at 92 (quoting T.C.R.C.P. 52 (a)); National Pac. Ins. Co. v. Oto, 3 A.S.R.2d 94, 94-95 (App. Div. 1986). When conflicting testimony has been presented, "believ[ing] the witnesses favoring the appellee and disbelieving those favoring the appellant . . . is the prerogative of the trial court which saw and heard the witnesses." National Pac. Ins., 3 A.S.R.2d at 94.

Appellants' arguments essentially consisted of asserting that their witnesses [26ASR2d20] and not appellees' witnesses should be believed, as well as claiming that landmarks and construction on the land supported their ownership claim. However, these arguments only dispute the trial court's evaluation of the evidence. Determining the credibility and weight of the evidence is the function of the trial court, and its findings were amply supported by the evidence. Therefore, the decision of the Land and Titles Division is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

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1. Honorable William C. Canby, Jr., Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, serving by designation of the Secretary of the Interior.

2. Alex R. Munson, Judge, United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, serving by designation of the Secretary of the Interior.