43.1101 Right of action-Declaration.

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Any person interested under a deed, will or other written instrument, or under a contract, or who desires a declaration of his rights or duties with respect to another, or in respect to, in, over or upon property, may, in cases of actual controversy relating to the legal rights and duties of the respective parties, bring an action in the trial division of the High Court for a declaration of his rights and duties, including a determination of any question of construction or validity arising under an instrument or contract. He may ask for a declaration of his rights and duties, either alone or with other relief. The court may make a binding declaration of such rights or duties, whether or not further relief is or could be claimed at the time. The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect, and such declaration shall have the force of a final judgment. Such declaration may be had before there has been any breach of the obligation in respect to which said declaration is sought.

History: 1967, PL 10-22.

Case Notes:

Issue of constitutionality of statute requiring gubernatorial candidates to resign from government employment is not within scope of jurisdiction of this section; however, under “contractual relationship”, disregard of petitioner’s employment rights in firing him is. Soifele v. Lee, ASR (1977).

Appropriate procedure for review of administrative decision raising airport landing fees is to seek review pursuant to 4.1040 et seq. and declaratory relief pursuant to 43.110 et seq. Pan Am v Barnett ASR (1977).

Court has jurisdiction to make a declaratory judgment construing will. Tolmie v Hunkin ASR (1977)

The purpose of a declaratory judgment is to liquidate uncertainties and controversies which might result in future litigation In re High Chief Title Mauga, 4 ASR 132 (1974).

Court had jurisdiction, which it would exercise, to decide question whether the High Chief Title “Mauga” of the Village of Pago Pago was a split title, where there was continuous ill feeling and fighting over the issue, it appeared such a state of affairs would continue, and there had been five court cases seeking the removal of the holder of the Mauga title. In re High Chief Title Mauga, 4 ASR 132 (1974).

The basic question in determining whether a complaint presents a justiciable issue which can serve as a basis for a declaratory judgment suit is whether the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy between parties that have adverse legal interests of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant issuance of a declaratory judgment: and the test generally applied is whether it is relatively certain that coercive litigation will eventually ensue between the same parties if a declaratory judgment is refused. In re High Chief Title Mauga, 4 ASR 132 (1974).

Where trustees filed a pleading styled as a petition to a nonexistent “probate division” of the High Court for advice and instructions, the Court denied a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim by the surviving settlor of the trust, since the trustees did not merely seek an advisory opinion but stated a claim for declaratory relief. A.S.C.A. § 43.1101 et seq. In re Beaver Family Trust, 17 A.S.R.2d 9 (1990).

To bring a declaratory relief action, there must be a justiciable issue based on alleged facts showing, under all the circumstances, that a substantial controversy exists between parties having adverse legal interests of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant issuance of a declaratory judgment; the test generally applied is the relative certainty that litigation will eventually follow if declaratory relief is not granted. A.S.C.A. § 43.1101. Sala v. American Samoa Gov’t, 21 A.S.R.2d 50 (1992).