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High Court rules in favor of DBAS in 1602 jurisdiction

The Trial Division of the High Court has denied a motion to dismiss one of the cases the government has filed on behalf of the Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) and its 1602 housing program where borrowers have failed to adhere to the contracts.


In March, Kalilimotu and Tuputasi Hunt through their attorney, Mark Ude filed a motion to dismiss claiming that DBAS is seeking relief in the wrong court as their proper venue is the Land and Titles Division, in as much as the issue at hand involved land.


The motion to dismiss alleges that the plaintiff filed its lawsuit in the Trial Division when it should instead be filed in the lands and titles division and states “therefore the trial division has no subject matter jurisdiction over this issue.” The defendants requested that the civil matter against Kalilimotu and Tuputasi Hunt be dismissed with prejudice.


An order issued this week, signed by Associate Justice Lyle R Richmond, Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Muasau Tasina Tofili denies the dismissal motion.


According to the order, this controversy arises out of a $68,000 grant from DBAS to Kalilimotu and Tuputasi Hunt for the construction of low-income housing in the village of Auto.


Defendant’s argued that because this suit allegedly relates to land it must be brought before the land and titles division of the High Court, as opposed to the Trial Division.


“We do not agree and therefore the defendant’s motion is dismissed,” the court wrote.




The order quoted ASCA 3.0208(b), which provides that the land and titles division of the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all controversies relating to land. However, the same subsection also instructs that the trial division shall have original jurisdiction over the following classes of cases and controversies; civil cases in which the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000. The order further says that the case at hand does not relate to land in the same sense as the specific class of land cases well understood to fall within the purview of the land and titles division. “In this case, DBAS does not seek to enforce levied interest in defendant’s land …”


Instead the court decreed, “it only seeks to recover the $68,000 grant as a monetary judgment, therefore we hold that DBAS appropriately brought this action in the Trial Division of the high court and that the suit should not be transferred to the land and titles division.”