T`EO LAUTI TAVAI,
LOPATI FAU and TE`O
Court of American Samoa
and Titles Division
 The process
for alienating communal land, set forth in the Alienation of Communal Land Act
(A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0201 et seq.),
requires not only the involvement of the Land Commission, but gubernatorial
approval as well.
Registration Act (A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0101 et
seq.) does not trump the
Alienation of Communal Land Act (A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0201 et seq.), nor does it
provide a vehicle for evading the latter.
could not obtain title to property as his individually-owned land by simply
offering to register title with the Territorial Registrar and going through the
process set forth in the Registration Act, where land was in fact communal land
and had not been alienated pursuant to the Alienation of Communal Land
KRUSE, Chief Justice, SAGAPOLUTELE, Associate Judge, and MAMEA, Associate
For Plaintiff, Asaua Fuimaono
For Defendant Lopati
Fau, Fai`ivae A. Galea`i, L.P.
Te`o Lauti Tavai offered to register with the Territorial Registrar title to
certain land “Pago,” located in the village of Vailoatai, as his own
individually-owned land. Te`o’s claim
was publicly posted between November 30, 2000, through January 29, 2001, and it had in turn
attracted the objections of Lopati Fau, now holder of the Fau title of
Vailoatai, and Te`o Malouamaua. The
objectors both claimed that the land “Pago” was communal land of the Te`o
family. Lopati Fau, a member of the Te`o
family, so testified. We agree with the
objectors and accordingly deny Te`o’s claim for the reasons that follow.
take judicial notice of this Court’s decision in Te`o v. Fau, LT No.
40-86 (Land & Titles Div. 1987), entered September 8, 1987. The Court there awarded plaintiff, “Te`o
Lauti Tavai, for himself and on behalf of the Te`o family of Vailoatai,”
certain land located in the village of Vailoatai, known as “Pago.” See id. At the time of the case, the land Pago was
the subject of a lease with the federal government, with Fau Pulemau (objector
Fau Lopati’s predecessor in-title) as lessor.
1987 judgment held, among other things, that:
1. [T]he land known as Pago in the village of Vailoatai,
American Samoa is the communal land of the Te`o family under the control
of the senior matai or sa`o of the family, Teo.
2.  Fau is a talking chief (tulafale) title of the Te`o
titleholder in Vailoatai.
(emphasis added); (see also Stipulation to Entry of
Judgment & Judgment 1-2). This is a
final judgment, conclusive against the parties and Te`o’s present attempt to
undo this final judgment by attempting to invoke the land title registration
process, as set out in A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0101 et
seq. (the “Registration Act”), is a futile and hopelessly ineffectual
Te`o’s goal here, quite obviously, is to skirt the statutory restrictions
against the alienation of communal lands as contained in A.S.C.A. §§ 37.0201 et seq. (the “Alienation of Communal
Land Act”). The process set out in the
Alienation of Communal Land Act, regulating the alienation of communal land,
requires not only the involvement of the Land Commission, to check against
improvident transactions, but gubernatorial approval as well. See generally Pen v. Lavata`i, 30
A.S.R.2d 10, 13-14 (App. Div. 1996). But
the Registration Act cannot trump the Alienation of Communal Land Act and it
certainly does not provide a vehicle for evading the latter. Otherwise, the constitutionally mandated
policy of protective legislation requiring the courts to interpret statutes in
a way which is protective of the Samoan custom would be rendered quite
meaningless. See Am. Samoa Rev. Const. art. I, § 3.
view of the foregoing, Te`o’s application to register title in individual
ownership to land “Pago” in the village of Vailoatai is denied. The Territorial Registrar shall, accordingly,
reject such application.
is so ordered.
 Incidentally, the survey
offered by Te`o for registration was, on its face, procured in 1979, some 21
years before the offer to register title.
However, from the Territorial Registrar’s file submitted to the Clerk’s
office, it was not at all clear that the requisite statutory certifications by
the surveyor and pulenu`u, pursuant to A.S.C.A. § 37.0102, were ever given.
 Section 3. Policy of protective
It shall be the
policy of the Government of American Samoa to protect persons of Samoan
ancestry against alienation of their lands and the destruction of the Samoan
way of life and language, contrary to their best interests. Such legislation as may be necessary may be
enacted to protect the lands, customs, culture, and traditional Samoan family
organization of persons of Samoan ancestry, and to encourage business
enterprises by such persons. No change
in the law respecting the alienation or transfer of land or any interest
therein shall be effective unless the same be approved by two successive
legislatures by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of each house and by