NEW LAW ESTABLISHES FAMILY COURT IN AMERICAN SAMOA

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 3, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---American Samoa now has a Family, Drug and Alcohol Court, as a division of the High Court of American Samoa.

The new division was conceived by the judiciary, which wanted to improve the capability of American Samoa’s court system to address serious problems in the island society.

The plan was proposed to Governor Tauese Sunia by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

The new court will cease to exist as of October 1, 2002 unless it is extended.

Chief Justice Kruse wanted to set up the new court division as a short-term pilot project so that its impact and usefulness could be assessed.

If it is a "success story," a more permanent basis for the court will be pursued in the future.

The new court division is charged with serving as "a comprehensive, one judge-one family court that can address all matters affecting families, from juvenile offenses to domestic violence and adoptions to divorce and child support."

The court is encouraged to utilize rehabilitation programs when sentencing people for crimes involving violence or alcohol or drug use, all with an eye to breaking a downward spiral within an individual or family.

"With the foresight of the Chief Justice and the efforts of you and your colleagues, we are now instituting a modern, innovative approach to the complex programs of domestic violence and drug and alcohol-related criminal actions which face our community," the Governor informed the Legislative leadership.

"This ‘one judge, one family’ concept allows for comprehensive disposition of a variety of actions by a special division of the court," the Governor concluded.

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