American Samoa Gov’t; Aumua v.




High Court of American Samoa
Appellate Division

November 21, 1980

AP No. 25-79


District court lacks jurisdiction to try unsworn complaint.

Before MIYAMOTO, Chief Justice, presiding, McNICHOLS*, Acting Associate Justice, NEILSEN**, Acting Associate Justice, POUTOA, Associate Judge, and SEVA'AETASI,Associate Judge.


This is a direct appeal from the District Court on the issue of whether the defendant in a traffic case may be tried upon an unsworn complaint. Pursuant to law, the police officers of the Government of American Samoa utilize a Uniform Traffic Ticket and Complaint which must be sworn to by the citing officer before a person authorized to administer oaths.

22 ASC 2409 (b) provides in part:

Before any offense shall be heard by the court, or any plea taken,
there shall be filed with the clerk of the court a complaint signed
and sworn to by a police officer of American Samoa which shall
set forth the particulars of the alleged offense.

The law is clear. The requirement of a sworn complaint is jurisdictional. The District Court, in this case, had no jurisdiction to proceed with the trial and to sentence the Defendant.

Accordingly, the conviction of the Appellant-defendant is reversed.



*Honorable Ray McNichols, United States District Court Judge, District of Idaho, sitting by designation of the Secretary of the Departemnt of the Interior.

**Honorable Leland C. Nielsen, United States District Court Judge, Southern District of California, sitting by designation of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.