Lawsuit against MJCA over seven year delay of judgement, struck out in its entirety


The Lauano Construction Company Limited civil suit against the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration in the delay of issuance of a judgement seven years after the proceeding has been struck out by the court in its entirety. 

This was confirmed in a decision issued last month by Supreme Court Justice, Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke. 

According to the decision of the court, Sola Lauano pleads that he was managing director of Lauano Construction Company and in 2004, the company commenced legal proceedings against the Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric of the Church of the Latter Day Saints Church Education System (“LDS”). 

Plaintiff pleads that the LCCL claim against the LDS proceeded to hear before the Supreme Court on between 2005-2012 and in September 2019, judgment was delivered “in favour of the plaintiff” (LCCL) in the sum of $172,447.86 by late Chief Justice Patu Falefaatu Sapolu.

In these proceedings, Plaintiff complains that he “had to wait for the decision to be delivered seven years after the proceeding was completed before the Court.”

During that time, Plaintiff says he incurred debts “to cover the running operating costs of his business during this seven years whilst awaiting the decision.”

Consequently, the “plaintiff suffered in not having the use of these funds from this matter to carry out operation costs of his business as well as to service debts incurred already in performing the contract which is the subject of the claim against the LDS.”

The delay in delivering the judgment allegedly caused Plaintiff to incur costs and sued the Ministry on the basis that Sapolu CJ “was a Judge and/or officer and/or employee of the Government of Samoa through/or under the Ministry of Justice and Court Administration.” As a result of the delay in the delivery of judgment, the Court breached his right to a fair trial guaranteed by article 9 of the Constitution. 

Justice Clarke in his decision pointed to the principles governing the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction to strike out are well settled. There are two sources of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to strike out proceedings. These are rules 70 of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 1980 and the inherent jurisdiction of the Court on the basis that these proceedings are frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process.

Justice Clarke is satisfied that Plaintiff has no standing to bring these proceedings in his personal capacity. 

If Plaintiff had incurred personal costs to finance the continued operations of LCCL, that was a matter between Plaintiff and LCCL.

“That he may have incurred those costs does not give the Plaintiff standing to bring this claim arising from the alleged breach of purported rights arising from a judgment in which he was not a party.” 

Furthermore, Justice Clarke noted the judgment is conclusive, including as between the parties to those proceedings and their privies. 

To now claim that the judgment obtained by LCCL was in error does not assist the Plaintiff to establish standing to sue in his personal capacity for damages in these proceedings.

Second, there are no proceedings to amend the judgment. Although the Court has the power to amend its own judgment, that power is also limited.

Third, if the judgment were to be set aside, there would be no basis upon which the Plaintiff could sue for delay as there would be no judgment to complain of.

Fourth, the submission was made from the bar table on the hearing of the Defendant’s strike out motion in the absence of any supporting evidence.” 

According to the decision of the Court, in these proceedings, the Plaintiff’s claim is brought against the “Ministry of Justice and Court Administration and the Government of Samoa. 

As Judges and judicial officers are not officers of the Government nor are they part of a department of Government for the purposes of the GPA 1974, the “Government” (which includes the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration) cannot be held liable for alleged tortious acts or omissions of Judges and judicial officers.

Further, section 6(3) of the GPA 1974 also expressly exempts the Government from tortious liability for anything done or omitted to be done by judicial officers in the discharge of their judicial functions.” 

In conclusion, Justice Clarke said the proceedings brought by Plaintiff against Defendant are doomed to fail and should therefore be struck out. Accordingly, the Statement of Claim is struck out in its entirety; and Counsel are to agree as to costs, failing which, counsel are at liberty to file memoranda as to costs within 14 days.