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Chapter 02 - High Court

Chapter 02 - High Court

3.0201 Territorial jurisdiction.


The jurisdiction of the High Court shall extend to the whole of American Samoa, including Swains Island and Rose Island.

3.0202 General powers.


(a) The High Court of American Samoa shall have power to issue all writs and other process, make rules and orders, and do all acts, not inconsistent with law or with the rules

made by the Chief Justice of American Samoa, as may be required for the due administration of justice, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing powers, may grant bail, accept and forfeit security therefor, make orders for the attendance of witnesses with or without documents, make orders for the disposal of exhibits and punish for contempt of court.

(b) The trial and land and titles divisions of the High Court shall have the power to give declaratory relief.

3.0203 Power to punish contempt of authority.


The High Court of American Samoa shall have power to punish by fine or imprisonment, at its discretion, contempt of its authority consisting of the following:

(1) misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto that the misbehavior obstructs the administration of justice;

(2) misbehavior of any of its officers in their official transactions; and

(3) disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command.

3.0204 Court of record—Seal.


The High Court shall be a court of record and shall have a seal.

3.0205 Appointment of clerk and other officers.


The High Court shall have a clerk, interpreters, who may also be deputy clerks, a marshal, deputy marshals, and such other employees as the Chief Justice may deem necessary, all of whom shall be appointed by the Chief Justice, shall receive salaries fixed by him, and shall be subject to removal by him.

3.0206 Duties of clerk.


The Clerk of the High Court shall record its proceedings and shall be the custodian of the records, papers, and seal of the Court. He shall perform his duties under the direction of the Chief Justice, and shall maintain his office in the Court House in the village of Fagatogo, Tutuila.

3.0207 Divisions and sessions—Composition.


(a) The High Court shall consist of an Appellate Division, a Trial Division and a Land and Titles Division.

(b) The High Court shall hold the regular sessions of its Appellate, Trial and Land and Titles Divisions in the Court House in the village of Fagatogo, Tutuila, and may hold sessions of any division at such other places in American Samoa as the business of the court requires and as the Chief Justice may designate from time to time.

3.0208 Jurisdiction of divisions.


(a) The trial division of the High Court shall be a court of general jurisdiction with the power to hear any matter not otherwise provided for by statute. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the trial division of the High Court shall have original jurisdiction of the following classes of cases and controversies:

(1) civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000, except land and titles matters as provided in subsection (b);

(2) criminal cases in which a felony is charged;

(3) admiralty and maritime matters, of which the trial division shall have both in rem and in personam jurisdiction;

(4) juvenile cases;

(5) the probate of wills and administration of estates;

(6) domestic relations, except adoptions and actions arising under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act;

(7) all writs; and

(8) all matters of which the trial division has jurisdiction by statute.

(b) The land and titles division of the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction:

(1) in all matters relating to matai titles; and

(2) in all controversies relating to land.

(c) The Appellate Division of the High Court shall have jurisdiction to review, on appeal, final decisions of the trial and land and titles divisions of the High Court, matters on appeal from the District Court as provided in 3.0309, appeals of administrative decisions as provided in 4.1040 through 4.1044 and appeals of other matters specifically provided for by statute.

3.0209 Power to hear and determine cases.


(a) The Chief Justice or the Associate Justice shall have power to hear and determine alone any preliminary or supplementary matter in any case before the appellate, trial, or land and titles divisions of the High Court and to enter an order with respect thereto, including an order of dismissal where the dismissal is not contested or where a plaintiff has moved for dismissal and the defendant has not filed a pleading.

(b) In the land and titles division, a decision must be rendered in a case within 60 days from the submission of the case for decision by the court.

3.0210 Role of associate judges.


The associate judges shall be entitled to be heard on all questions before any division of the High Court and to examine any party or witness in the proceedings, and shall also advise the court on such questions as the court may refer to them.

3.0220 Appellate division—Composition,


The appellate division shall consist of the Chief Justice, the Associate Justice, Acting Associate Justices appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, and all the associate judges. Sessions of the appellate division shall be held before 3 justices and 2 associate judges, the presence of 2 of the justices and 1 associate judge being necessary to constitute a quorum for the trial and determination of a case or controversy.

3.0221 Appellate division—Difference of opinion—Prevailing opinion.


In the appellate division of the High Court, if there remains, after conference, any difference of opinion among the judges, the opinion of 2 of the justices shall prevail and shall be recorded by the clerk as the opinion and decision of the court. However, if in the determination of any land or matai title case or controversy before the appellate division there remains, after conference, any difference of opinion among the judges, the opinion of the majority of the 5 judges shall prevail and shall be recorded by the clerk as the opinion and decision of the court.

3.0230 Trial division—Composition.


(a) The trial division shall consist of the Chief Justice, the Associate Justice and all of the Associate Judges.

(b) Sessions of the trial division shall be held before a justice and 2 associate judges, the presence of a justice and 1 associate judge being necessary to constitute a quorum for the trial and determination of a case or controversy.

3.0231 Trial division—Difference of opinion— Prevailing opinion.


In the trial division of the High Court, if there remains, after conference, any difference of opinion between the Justice and the Associate Judges, the opinion of the Justice prevails and is recorded by the clerk as the opinion and decision of the court.

3.0232 Trial division—Petit jury.


(a) A person charged with an offense carrying a maximum possible punishment of over 6 months of imprisonment shall be tried by a jury unless he personally waives this right in writing or in open court. The Chief Justice of the High Court may promulgate Petit Jury Rules and Standard Jury Instructions to govern jury trials in the High Court and District Court. The petit jury shall be comprised of 6 persons. The jury verdict must be unanimous. Voir dire of prospective jurors shall be conducted by the court.

(b) Whenever petit jury trials are held as provided in subsection (a), at least 1 associate judge shall sit with either the Chief Justice, Associate Justice, or Acting Associate Justice, who acts as presiding judge of the High Court. All questions of law shall be ruled upon by the presiding judge.

3.0240 Land and titles division—Composition.


The land and titles division shall consist of the Chief Justice, the Associate Justice, and all of the associate judges. In the land and titles division, all controversies relating to land shall be heard and decided by a justice and 2 associate judges, the presence of a justice and 1 associate judge being necessary to constitute a quorum for the trial and determination of a case or controversy. In the land and titles division all controversies relating to matai titles shall be heard by a justice and 4 associate judges, the presence of a justice and 3 associate judges being necessary to constitute a quorum for the trial and determination of a case or controversy.

3.0241 Land and titles division—Differences of opinion—Prevailing opinion.


(a) In cases or controversies relating to land in the land and titles division of the High Court, if there remains, after conference, any difference of opinion between the Justice and the Associate Judges, the opinion of the Justice prevails and is recorded by the clerk as the opinion and decision of the court.

(b) In cases or controversies relating to matai titles in the land and titles division of the High Court, if there remains, after conference, any difference of opinion among the judges, the justice shall abstain and the opinion of the majority of the 4 associate judges shall prevail and shall be recorded by the clerk as the opinion and decision of the court. In the event of a tie vote among the 4 associate judges, the justice shall cast the deciding vote.

3.0242 Land and titles division—Rules.


(a) The Chief Justice shall, by order, prescribe rules and forms to govern the conduct of proceedings before the land and titles division. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Title 28, U.S.C., shall have no application to proceedings before the land and titles division.

(b) In any matter of practice or procedure not provided for, or where the strict compliance with any rule of practice or procedure may be inequitable or inconvenient, the land and titles division may act in each case in such manner as it considers to be most consistent with natural justice and convenience.