President's Message

Welcome to the New ASBA Website


The American Samoa Bar Association (ASBA) was founded 40 years ago with the mandate of “improving the administration of justice.” From its humble beginnings, the ASBA has taken up the cause of promoting the rule of law and advancing the interests of justice in American Samoa. With members from almost all of the 50 states and several jurisdictions of the English common law, the ASBA boasts a diversity in membership that perhaps no other association of its kind can claim. In this diversity, the ASBA is able to draw from legal experiences from all backgrounds and walks of life, thereby making it a melting pot of ideas and legal theories. The contrastive legal perspectives of the members of the ASBA contributes to the growth of not only the Organization, but jurisprudence in American Samoa as well.


For the past 40 years, the ASBA has been the torch-bearer of law and justice in the Territory. As part of its efforts to improve the practice of law, the Association continues to place priority on its focus to keeping its membership appraised of the developments in the law. This year, the emphasis will be on continuing legal education, with focus in the areas of practice and procedure. Special committees on mediation and practice will work with the courts to lay the groundwork for a process of dispute resolution as an alternative to judicial intervention. In the area of professional responsibility, improvements will be made in the filing and handling of claims regarding professional misconduct and related issues so that attorneys will remain, as always, accountable to their clients.


Increased community involvement is also a priority this year. Our very first Annual Law Conference was held in March 2012 and the intent is to expand upon it this term. Committees on the Bar Justice Foundation and Legal Aid Clinic have been diligently working to bring free legal aid and assistance to the public and are near completing their work. Since last year, a special committee on mock trial has been cooperating with the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) to put in place a trial advocacy or moot court program involving the pre-law students of ASCC. This year, that plan becomes a reality. In early May, the ASBA announced it was accepting applications for its annual Legal Education Scholarship for local students who are ready to enter law school. Announcement of the successful candidates is slated for mid-July after the Committee deliberates.


This will be a very exciting year for the ASBA. With the recent adoption of its Five Year Strategic Plan, the Association is in full gear in order to meet its set goals and targets. Improving the administration of justice is a task that requires all the tools that can be made available. That is why I am very happy to welcome you to this new and improved website of the ASBA. This site is the culmination of many months of hard work of several dedicated individuals. I wish to acknowledge the efforts of former President Sean Morrison and all of those who labored to make this new site a reality. It is my hope that it will be a useful tool for all ASBA members and all others who visit it. 


As ASBA President for 2012-2013, and on behalf of Vice President Vincent Kruse, Treasurer Marian McGuire Rapoza and Secretary Karen Shelley, I say Talofa!, and I look forward to working with all of you to make this year one to remember.


Soifua ma ia manuia.



August 25, 2011

Malo and Congratulations ASBA,

American Samoa has a seat in the American Bar Association House of Delegates. This is a great victory for the territory and the ASBA. The ABA is the world’s largest professional organization, with strong influence throughout the United States and the global legal community. American Samoa now has a voice in this organization, and along with our sister territories, we can begin to advance the legal issues facing the islands.

The importance of this opportunity and the organization should not be overlooked. This same meeting was opened with remarks by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Others present included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, David Boies, and Ted Olson. This is no small group of lackluster attorneys – we now count ourselves among the best and the brightest. And this organization is not irrelevant to us. Many of the trainings during the annual meeting related to legal planning for times of disaster. There were resolutions on ethics and the judicial code of conduct. One of the main themes was the underfunding of the judicial system. If all of these issues sound familiar, it is because American Samoa faces them as well.

However, in order to advance our agenda before the ABA, we must know what that agenda is and be ready to defend it locally.Now that we are players in such an important organization, we have a great responsibility to present our views on a wide range of legal issues. This will require a significant change of philosophy for the ASBA. In the past, the ASBA has been very hesitant to take a position on issues, even when they directly affect the legal profession in American Samoa. As attorneys, we represent the interests of people and organizations throughout the island every day, but when it comes to representing the interests of the profession, we strive for nothing but neutrality. How can we stand for issues on the national level if we fear doing so on the locally?

We must not be afraid to voice the cause of the legal profession when it is directly affected. One of the most important roles of a bar association is to advocate on behalf of its members. There have been a number of issues, such as judicial nominations, the appellate division, court security, and the disciplinary system, to name a few, that the bar has been hesitant to speak out about. All that happens when we remain silent, is that our positions are not heard. We would never represent a client like that, so why do it to ourselves?

There are many local issues that we can address through our new partnerships within the ABA. These include improving our ethics and discipline institutions, promoting the rule of law in American Samoa, and ensuring that our laws, regulations, and cases are regularly published and publically available. The ASBA is already in talks with the ABA Rule of Law Initiative and the ABA Ethics Disciplinary Team on projects to conduct in American Samoa.

This membership represents a great opportunity, and the ASBA is ready to meet it. But the ABA is just the first step. We are also reconnecting with our colleagues in the Samoa Law Society, and will be participating in a conference they are hosting in November, as well as a Christmas event in Apia. We are also opening up talks with the newly created South Pacific Lawyers Association out of Sydney. We look forward to the new partnerships to improve our justice system and promote American Samoa at home and around the world.


President, ASBA

Revive the Entrepreneur

Times are tough. The economy is weak, federal funding is being drastically cut, and the territory is still recovering from the tsunami and the closing of COS. People are looking for ways to make ends meet, and new forms of employment. It is not enough anymore to get a career service government job, or stay with a company for years on end. The only way this territory is going to survive this economic drought is to take charge and create something news. It is time for the entrepreneurial spirit to take hold in American Samoa.


What is an entrepreneur? The entrepreneur is someone who creates something out of nothing. They build a company that did not exist; they identify a market that has not been exhausted; and they find new and innovative ways to solve problems. The entrepreneur takes charge of the situation and becomes a leader through hard work and creativity. Most importantly, the entrepreneur does not wait to have all of this handed to them, but works on creating it themselves.


American Samoa is rife with opportunities for the entrepreneur. Tourism is a prime example. For a place as beautiful as American Samoa, there is a definite lack of tourism based businesses. It does no good to wait for the government to lay down a plan. People should be taking their ideas and turning them into actions. That is entrepreneurship.


It may seem strange that the American Samoa Bar Association is discussing business and economics, but that should not be a surprise. Every private attorney on the island is an entrepreneur. We do not have large firms with career employees, just individuals and small groups of dedicated professionals. Each one of them started their practice and built it up like any other business. Their livelihoods are directly linked to the rest of the economy, just like everyone else.


For this reason, the Bar Association’s Legal Reform Committee is working on reviewing the laws relating to business and commerce, to see if there’s a way to modify the laws in such a way as to bring business back to life in the territory. The Committee will be searching out unnecessary obstacles, difficult to understand rules, and gaps in the law, and suggest innovative legal solutions to these problems. This will not solve the problem on its own, but hopefully it will clear the way for growth. The entrepreneurial spirit is not dead in American Samoa; it just needs an opportunity to get started.


President, ASBA


40 Years of Promoting Justice in American Samoa


For the last 40 years the American Samoa Bar Association has been working diligently to promote justice in the territory. Anniversaries are an excellent opportunity to review the past and look forward to the future. As we undergo this process, we invite the public to join us looking back on our history, and celebrating our future.


40 years ago, a group of attorneys got together determined to promote justice throughout the territory. They used an untouched statute enabling a bar association, and created an organization that has worked on behalf of the legal system and the community for decades. Their work was so important that the American Bar Association recognized their achievements with an award of special merit in 1974. Last year, the Western Samoa Law Society recognized late Governor Uifaatali Peter Tali Coleman as the first Samoan attorney to practice in the Samoas.


Two of the Bar’s founding members, Coleman and A.P. Lutali, went on to become Governors of American Samoa. Both the current Governor, Togiola T.A. Tulafono, and the Lieutenant Governor are Bar members, and countless otherBar members have become important civic and community leaders.


The Bar has continuously worked to bring the rule of law to the people. Throughout the years, the Bar has hosted a number of legal symposium, panels, and trainings. In the late 70's and early 80's the Bar published the Samoa Pacific Law Journal, which provided legal news and analysis affecting the territory. In 2003, the Bar launched, which provides the only online access to the territory's laws. Over the years, the Bar has hosted election debates, and provided legal comments on Fono bills; commented on the Constitutional Convention, and explained complex legal issues to the public. After the 2009 tsunami, the Bar partnered with FEMA and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division to provide disaster legal services to those in need.


Last year the Bar joined the American Bar Association and elected Mr. Charles Alailimaas the territory's first ABA Delegate. This February, American Samoa took its seat in the ABA House of Delegates and cast its first vote.


The Bar will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary with a series of events intended to highlight justice issues throughout the Territory. In the next couple of weeks, the Bar will be launching a new site. The upgraded site will feature improved access to information and more features for both Bar members and the public. One of the greatest services the Bar is access to the laws of American Samoa. Therefore, the legal resources section will offer new search functions, with a more intuitive organization. Easier access will lead to improved research.


From April 28th to May 1st, the Bar will join the entire world in celebrating International Law Day, and the entire community is invited to celebrate with us. On April 28th, the Bar will be hosting a law conference featuring key speakers from the territory tackling important issues. During the conference, there will be a panel discussion to determine the effects of citizenship on the Territory. The Bar will also present the first annual Arthur A. Morrow Justice Award to an individual who has greatly contributed to promoting justice in American Samoa. The public is invited and encouraged to attend both events. That evening, Bar members will hold their annual meeting.


It's an exciting year for the legal community. It is an election year, with the promise of an exciting gubernatorial race. New lawsuits are being filed on the mainland that could significantly alter the legal framework of the territories. To address these and other issues, the Bar will be hosting other events throughout the year and will keep the community updated. It is only with the help and trust of the community that we can succeed, and the Bar will continue to reach out to the people of American Samoa.


In the life of the legal profession, 40 years is not much, but the accomplishments of the American Samoa Bar Association in such a short amount of time are laudable. We look forward to promoting justice for the next 40 years by standing on the shoulders of those giants of the legal profession before us.


--Sean Morrison

   President, ASBA