A. STRUCTURES OF THE COURT

This division is set out to offer mediation services to disputing matters and register new and approved matai titles as well as issuing approved beer licenses.

COURT OF APPEAL
SUPREME COURT
ADC (ALCOHOL AND DRUGS COURT)
DISTRICT COURT & FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI (FF COURT)
FAMILY COURT
YOUTH COURT
CORONERS COURT
FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI COURT
COURT OF APPEAL

The Court of Appeal has a general jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from the Supreme Court:

SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court had been established under Section 1 of the Judicature Ordinance 1961. The Chief Justice is the principal judicial officer and responsible for its administration. Supreme Court Judges preside over all divisions of the Court.

The Supreme Court of Samoa

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine any action where the debt, demand or damage, or the value of the chattels claimed, is more than $20,000

ADC (ALCOHOL AND DRUGS COURT)

The Samoa Alcohol and Drugs Court was officially launched on the 12th of February 2016 and had its very first sitting on the 16th of February 2016. The Alcohol and Drugs Court (ADC) is led by Her Honour Justice Tuatagaloa together with the assistance of Her Honour Justice Aitken. ADC is a specialized Court designed to supervise offenders whose offending is driven by alcohol or drug dependency. The desired outcomes of the ADC are to:

DISTRICT COURT & FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI (FF COURT)

The District Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine any action where the debt, demand or damage, or the value of the chattels claimed, is not more than $20,000.00

FAMILY COURT

Family Court is established “(a) be a division of the District Court; and (b) consist of Family Court Judges appointed pursuant to this Act”, family Court Act 2014.

Family Court Act gives the family jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter or proceedings under any of the following enactments:

YOUTH COURT

The Youth Court is for Young Persons aged 10 and less than 17 years and is a division of the District Court. The Youth Court should be conducted in a manner consistent with Samoan customs and tradition and in the Samoan language unless the young Person’s first language is other than Samoan.

The Court may require parents or guardians to attend the Court and has the power to summon them to appear.

The Youth Court proceedings are generally closed to both the media and general public. The only persons allowed into court are:

CORONERS COURT

Coroners Court is to hear inquests. The Coroner’s Court provides a broad range of services to the community by recognising the need to assist bereaved families to understand the coronial investigation process. The cornerstone of coronial inquiry is to provide a thorough and impartial service to the community when investigating the circumstances in which people die.

The Coroner’s Court is less formal than other Courts.  It is not bound by the laws of evidence and is not too technical or legalistic.  In making a decision the Court can also make recommendations to any relevant authorities that may result in changes to laws or practices in order to prevent similar deaths in the future.

It is not the Coroner’s role to establish whether a crime has been committed or to find a person guilty of that crime. Nor is it the Coroner’s role to make judgments about matters of civil liability.

FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI COURT

The Faamasinoga Fesoasoani Court has a jurisdiction to hear and determine any action where the debt, demand or damage, or the value of the chattels claimed, is under $2,000.00

It is not the Coroner’s role to establish whether a crime has been committed or to find a person guilty of that crime. Nor is it the Coroner’s role to make judgments about matters of civil liability.

B. WHAT TO DO WHEN GOING TO THE CIVIL/CRIMINAL COURTS

You may need to go to Court for a number of reasons including:

A witness/victim
What to Expect
Interpreters
Court Behaviour
General Protocols
YOUTH COURT
CORONERS COURT
FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI COURT
A witness/victim

A witness is someone who knows facts pertinent to a case. A witness may also give opinion evidence of matters of an expert nature or may be called to give evidence of the character of the person charged with an offence. The information given to the court by a witness is recorded as evidence, which is used to make a judgment in the case.

In criminal trials, witnesses may be required by the prosecution (the side bringing the charge to court), or by the defence (the person charged and his/her lawyer). In the Court, criminal matters are usually prosecuted by the police or the NPO.

In civil trials, witnesses may be required by the plaintiff (the side bringing the action to court) or the defendant (the person defending the action).

The notice that the court issues to a witness to attend court is called a Summons.  If a summons to attend court at a given date and time is disobeyed (ie the witness does not attend court), the court may order a warrant be issued to bring that person to court.

What to Expect

You should attend the court on the date and time as arranged with the party requesting your attendance (or if you were served with a summons, on the date and time specified in the summons). Firstly, look at the case list to find out which courtroom the case is in.

When you have found the courtroom the case will be in, tell the Police Officer in that courtroom who you are and why you are there. Then take a seat and wait until you are required to give your evidence.  Note that the process for a victim or vulnerable witness to give their testimony may be different, as it is aimed to protect them from the defendant.

When it is time for you to give your evidence, you will be asked to stand in the witness box. First, you will be sworn in. This means you must take an oath, or make an affirmation, to tell the truth. The most common form of oath will require you to hold the Bible while a court officer/police officer asks you,

 “Do you swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

to which you reply,

 “I swear.”

Or you can choose instead to make an affirmation, in which case you will be asked to say;

 “I [your name] do truly and solemnly declare and affirm that my evidence will be completely truthful.”

Perjury (giving evidence you know to be false) is a serious criminal offence.

After you have been sworn in, you will be asked questions by the party who requested your attendance (i.e. if you are a witness for the prosecution, the prosecutor will ask you questions, or if you are a witness for the defence, the defence lawyer will ask you questions). The Judge may also ask you questions while you are in the witness box. You should try to answer all questions as clearly and simply as possible.

When you have finished giving your evidence, the other side may cross-examine you, i.e. they may ask further questions about the evidence you have just given.

The amount of time you will have to spend in court depends on the nature of the trial and where you fit in as a witness. Some trials can be over in an hour or two; others can take days, weeks or months. You may be required to attend court again on subsequent dates to give more evidence

Interpreters

If you need the help of an interpreter to give evidence in court, tell the person who asked you to be a witness.  They will inform the court that you need an interpreter and what language you speak.  The court will then arrange for an interpreter to be present.

Court Behaviour

Courtrooms are open to the public except in special circumstances when the court orders otherwise. Seating is provided in the public gallery usually at the back of the courtroom.

General Protocols

When you enter and exit the courtroom, it is customary to acknowledge respect for the laws of the land, the court and its judiciary. This is simply a matter of pausing briefly at the door and bowing your head towards the Judicial Officer.

When a Judicial officer (Justice / Judge) enters or leaves the courtroom, it is customary to stand and bow and remain standing until the Judicial Officer has departed. The Judicial Officer is in charge of the courtroom and may order the removal of anybody who misbehaves or is dressed inappropriately.

You should stand whenever the Judge is talking to you, or you are talking to the judge

The following are not permitted in the courtroom:

You must turn off your mobile phone, pager and the alarm on your watch while in the courtroom.

You do not need to wear a suit when going to court but your dress should be neat and smart. It is inappropriate to wear singlets, thongs, hat or sunglasses in the courtroom.

It is traditional for Judges and lawyers to wear gowns in the Supreme and District Courts.

In court, it is important that you follow directions and pay attention. You should never be hostile.

A trial is a structured proceeding for the orderly collection of factual evidence by the Court. Fundamental to this process is that each party is allowed to speak in turn presenting their case. It is quite possible that you disagree with the information/evidence the other side is putting to the Judicial Officer. If so, make a note of the errors and correct them when it is your turn to speak, as well as putting your information/evidence to the Judicial Officer.  

YOUTH COURT

The Youth Court is for Young Persons aged 10 and less than 17 years and is a division of the District Court. The Youth Court should be conducted in a manner consistent with Samoan customs and tradition and in the Samoan language unless the young Person’s first language is other than Samoan.

The Court may require parents or guardians to attend the Court and has the power to summon them to appear.

The Youth Court proceedings are generally closed to both the media and general public. The only persons allowed into court are:

CORONERS COURT

Coroners Court is to hear inquests. The Coroner’s Court provides a broad range of services to the community by recognising the need to assist bereaved families to understand the coronial investigation process. The cornerstone of coronial inquiry is to provide a thorough and impartial service to the community when investigating the circumstances in which people die.

The Coroner’s Court is less formal than other Courts.  It is not bound by the laws of evidence and is not too technical or legalistic.  In making a decision the Court can also make recommendations to any relevant authorities that may result in changes to laws or practices in order to prevent similar deaths in the future.

It is not the Coroner’s role to establish whether a crime has been committed or to find a person guilty of that crime. Nor is it the Coroner’s role to make judgments about matters of civil liability.

FAAMASINOGA FESOASOANI COURT

The Faamasinoga Fesoasoani Court has a jurisdiction to hear and determine any action where the debt, demand or damage, or the value of the chattels claimed, is under $2,000.00

It is not the Coroner’s role to establish whether a crime has been committed or to find a person guilty of that crime. Nor is it the Coroner’s role to make judgments about matters of civil liability.