Judicial Service Commission puts out EOI for judge positions for court


Members of the Samoa Law Society have been invited to submit expressions of interest from the Judicial Service Commission for the appointment to the bench of the Supreme Court and District Court. 

This is outlined in a letter dated March 21, 2023, addressed to the Justices of the Supreme Court, Judges of the District Court and Members of the Society of Lawyers in the Country. 

Signed by the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Chief Executive Officer Papalii John Taimalelagi Afele who is also the Secretary of the JSC, and obtained by Radio Polynesia. 

The letter states that seeking expression of interest is a pilot initiative, intended to ensure a transparent process for appointment to the judgeship positions and will be reviewed in the 12 months from commencement. 

The EOI is printed below. 

The Judicial Service Commission is responsible for recommending to the Head of State the appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court and Judges to the District Court. 

This is a pilot initiative intended to make more transparent the process for appointment to these positions. 

The pilot will be reviewed in twelve months from commencement, and the Judicial Service Commission invites feedback from interested parties. 

The hope is that this initiative will enable all lawyers holding a practicing certificate, irrespective of whether they appear in Court, to signal their intention to be appointed a Judge of either bench. 

The initiative applies to all District Court Judges who wish to be considered for appointment to the Supreme Court. Expressions are to be addressed to and held by the Chief Justice/Chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, and placed on a list, which is confidential to the members of the Judicial Service Commission. 

When vacancies arise, the Chief Justice and the Registrar of the Court will draw up a short list of between 3 to 5 suitable candidates who are to be interviewed. 

If at any time an expression is no longer being pursued, the candidate may notify the Commission in writing and the expression can be returned and copies, including electronic copies will be destroyed or deleted, as the case may be. 

Criteria To be appointed to the Supreme Court or the District Court, you must have been in practice for not less than 10 years for the Supreme Court: Article 66 of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa, and 8 years for the District Court: s. 6 District Courts Act 2016. 

With the exception of the appointment of the Chief Justice, appointments to the Supreme and District Courts are made by the Head of State acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. 

The Judicial Service Commission identifies the following criteria for appointment to either Bench: 

Legal Ability: Legal ability includes a sound knowledge of the law and experience of its application. 

Legal knowledge, in particular, is indicative of intellectual capacity and intelligence. 

Requisite applied experience is often derived from the practice of law before the courts which is the experience of direct relevance to being a Judge. 

But application of legal knowledge in other branches of legal practice, such as in an academic environment, public service or as a member of a legal tribunal may all qualify. 

At appellate level, legal ability includes the capacity to discern general principles of law and in doing so to weigh competing policies and values. 

Qualities of character: Personal qualities of character include personal honesty and integrity, open mindedness and impartiality, courtesy, patience and social sensitivity, good judgment and common sense, the ability to work hard, to listen and concentrate, collegiality, breadth of vision, independence, and acceptance of public scrutiny. 

Personal technical skills: There are certain personal skills that are important, including skills of effective oral communication with lay people as well as lawyers. 

The ability to absorb and analyse complex and competing factual and legal material is necessary. Mental agility, administrative and organisational skills are valuable as is the capacity to be forceful when necessary and to maintain charge and control of a court. Judges often have to work at speed and under pressure. 

Accordingly, the ability to organise time effectively and produce clear reasoned judgments expeditiously is necessary. 

Reflection of society: This is the quality of being a person who is aware of, and sensitive to, the diversity of Samoa’s society. 

It is important that the judiciary comprise those with experience of the community and who clearly demonstrate their social awareness Samoa’s tu ma aga and its life, customs and values. 

The announcement come at the final week for Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani, Tuala-Warren to serve on the bench. 

Due to family obligations, her Honours has tendered her resignation letter to the Chief Justice. 

She confirmed this in response to questions from Radio Polynesia. Tafaoimalo was appointed as District Court Judge in 2013.

Last year Tafaoimalo, was one of the recipients recognised as one of the distinguished Alumni Awards from Waikato University, recognising their significant achievements and the contributions they made to their communities.

In 2005 she returned home to Samoa, and the welcome support of family, to work for with her brother in their law firm, Tuala & Tuala.

In 2008, she was appointed the first Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission.

Five years later, she was appointed judge of the District Court, and in doing so she became the second woman in Samoa appointed to the bench.

Tafaoimalo was asked to establish the Family Court and the Family Violence Court, the only court of its kind in the Pacific outside of New Zealand.” 

In 2016 Tuala-Warren left the Family Violence Court to become a Justice of the Supreme Court of Samoa where she deals with serious offences and constitutional cases.

In 2021, Tuala-Warren and her fellow Supreme Court judges were faced with a constitutional crisis during the Samoa election when two rival leaders were in a deadlock over who was the rightful prime minister, with a resolution found through the Supreme Court and through scrutiny of the constitution.