5ASR3d219

Series: 5ASR3d | Year: () | 5ASR3d219
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FAUMUINA SUAFA`I SATELE,      Plaintiff,

 

v.

 

TAUTOLO GALOSA and AMERICAN SAMOA

POWER AUTHORITY, Defendants.

 

High

Court of American Samoa

Land

and Titles Division

 

LT

No. 09-95

LT

No. 31-95

 

March

1, 2001

 

 

[1] The 10-day

time limit in which a party must file a motion for reconsideration or new trial

is a mandatory time limit and is jurisdictional.

 

[2] Where court

partially granted motion for reconsideration or new trial, the court’s order

granting such motion effected a new judgment and the time limit for filing a

subsequent motion for new trial ran from the date of that order.

 

[3] Trial Court

Rule of Civil Procedure 59 gives a trial court broad discretion to permit a new

trial in the interests of justice.

 

[4] Even when

there is substantial evidence supporting the trial court’s decision, a new

trial, and attendant reweighing of the evidence, may be conducted where the

interests of justice would be furthered. 

 

[5] Where new

trial was warranted and previous associate judges sitting on case were

unavailable, court could properly empanel other associate judges to hear case.

 

Before

RICHMOND, Associate Justice, and LOGOAI, Chief Associate Judge.

 

Counsel:         

For Plaintiff, Charles V. Ala`ilima and Marie A. Lafaele

 For Defendant Tautolo Galosa, Arthur Ripley,

Jr.

 For Defendant American Samoa Power Authority,

Roy J.D. Hall, Jr.

 

ORDER

GRANTING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OR NEW TRIAL, AND PROVIDING FOR A LIMITED

REHEARING

 

Defendant Tautolo Galosa (“Tautolo”)

moved for reconsideration or a new trial of the Court’s order entered on

November 6, 2000, that partially granted the motion by Plaintiff Faumuina

Suafa`i Satele (“Faumuina”) for reconsideration or a new trial of our opinion

and order entered on August 3, 2000.  The

motion was heard on February 15, 2001. 

Only Tautolo’s counsel appeared.

 

Discussion

 

[1-2] Faumuina

argues, by written opposition to Tautolo’s present motion, that Tautolo’s

motion is untimely because it was filed

more than 10 days after the opinion and order was entered.  See A.S.C.A. § 43.0802(a).  We disagree. 

The 10-day time limit is mandatory and jurisdictional.  Am. Samoa Gov’t v. Falefatu, 17

A.S.R.2d 114, 119 (Trial Div. 1990); see also In re Matai Title

“Mulitauaopele”, 17 A.S.R.2d 75, 80 (Land & Titles Div. 1990).  However, the 10 days sensibly run from the

date of entry of the order partially granting Faumuina’s motion for

reconsideration or new trial.  This order

substantially modified the original decision and was effectively a new judgment

for purposes of filing a motion for new trial with respect to the

modification.  See Judicial Memorandum

No. 2-87, 4 A.S.R.2d 172, 174

(1987).  We have, therefore, carefully

considered the substantive arguments put forth by Tautolo’s present motion.

 

[3-4] “A new trial may be granted

. . . on all or part of the issues for any of the reasons for which rehearings

have heretofore been granted in suits in equity.”  T.C.R.C.P. 59(a).  Rule 59 gives a trial court broad discretion

to permit a new trial in the interests of justice and applies equally to

nonjury trials.  11 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice

and Procedure § 2803 & 2804 (2d ed. 1995).  A new trial may be appropriate in order to

reweigh the evidence for this purpose even when there is substantial evidence

supporting the decision.  Id. at §

2806.

 

A rehearing limited to specific factual issues is

justified in this case.  We originally

held that as between Faumuina and Tautolo, the entire land at issue was the

Tautolo family’s communal land. Upon Faumuina’s motion for reconsideration or

new trial, we revised the decision to hold that a particular portion of the

land was the Faumuina family’s communal land. However, Tautolo’s present motion

demonstrates that the revision deserves further evaluation.

 

[5] Unfortunately, the

sole associate judge sitting on this case up to this point is now fully retired

from the bench and is now a newly selected Senator in the Legislature of

American Samoa.  He is not presently

available to participate with the presiding justice in the deliberations.  Hence, we will hold a rehearing with a new

panel of associate judges.  However, the

rehearing will be limited to taking evidence relevant to any acquisition of

title to the land held by the Faumuina family, as claimed by Faumuina and

disputed by Tautolo.  Further evidentiary

development on this factual issue is required for the ends of justice in this

case.  All other factual issues can be

decided by the new panel of judges on the evidence previously admitted.

 

Order

 

We

grant Tautolo’s motion for reconsideration or a new trial.  The existing judgment is opened.  A rehearing will be scheduled upon either

party’s motion.  During the rehearing,

the new panel of judges will take additional evidence that is limited and

relevant to the specific factual issue of any acquisition of title to the land

at issue, or any part of it, by the Faumuina family.  Evidence previously admitted will be

considered for other findings of fact. 

We will then amend or make new findings of fact and conclusions of law,

as may be appropriate, and direct entry of a new judgment. 

 

It is so

ordered.

 

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