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Speak simple language, Palusalue tells lawyer

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TOP LEGAL MIND: Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, outside Parliament yesterday where a Bill affecting his work and that of other lawyers was discussed. Photo: Lanuola Tupufia.

Bill seeks to ensure that the fees and costs charged by lawyers are fair and reasonable

The leader of the Opposition, Palusalue Fa’apo II, had a message for the Chairman of the Justice, Police, Prisons, Land and Titles Committee, Tuisa Tasi Patea, yesterday.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate of the Lawyers and Legal Practice Bill 2012, Palusalue asked Tuisa, who is a lawyer by profession, to address the House using simple language, the sort of language ordinary members of the public can understand.

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“I’m wondering if the Chairman even understands what he is talking about,” Palusalue said.

“Speak in simple terms, speak in a language that we can all understand. We want to understand what is in the bill. The country is listening and they also want to know what you are talking about.”

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, took the floor to counter Palusalue.

“This is why there are members of the Opposition party on these committees,” he said. “If the leader of the opposition can’t understand, he should ask the members of his party to explain to him."

“If his English is not that good, then it’s all the more reason why he should ask the members of his party who are on the Committee.”

Palusalue had taken the floor to object while Tuisa was speaking during the debate of the bill, which will repeal the Law Practitioners Act 1976 when it is passed.

The Bill seeks to regulate the legal profession. It exists to:

• To ensure that the legal profession of Samoa is administered and regulated in accordance with accepted professional and ethical standards

• To prescribe to requirements for the admission of lawyers and restrict the right to undertake legal practice and provide legal services to duly qualified and experienced persons who are of good character

• To ensure that monies entrusted to lawyers are held in accordance with legal requirements and are applied only for the purpose which the client instructs

The leader of the Opposition, Palusalue Fa’apo II, had a message for the Chairman of the Justice, Police, Prisons, Land and Titles Committee, Tuisa Tasi Patea, yesterday.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate of the Lawyers and Legal Practice Bill 2012, Palusalue asked Tuisa, who is a lawyer by profession, to address the House using simple language, the sort of language ordinary members of the public can understand.

“I’m wondering if the Chairman even understands what he is talking about,” Palusalue said.

“Speak in simple terms, speak in a language that we can all understand. We want to understand what is in the bill. The country is listening and they also want to know what you are talking about.”

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, took the floor to counter Palusalue.

“This is why there are members of the Opposition party on these committees,” he said. “If the leader of the opposition can’t understand, he should ask the members of his party to explain to him."

“If his English is not that good, then it’s all the more reason why he should ask the members of his party who are on the Committee.”

Palusalue had taken the floor to object while Tuisa was speaking during the debate of the bill, which will repeal the Law Practitioners Act 1976 when it is passed.

The Bill seeks to regulate the legal profession. It exists to:

• To ensure that the legal profession of Samoa is administered and regulated in accordance with accepted professional and ethical standards

• To prescribe to requirements for the admission of lawyers and restrict the right to undertake legal practice and provide legal services to duly qualified and experienced persons who are of good character

• To ensure that monies entrusted to lawyers are held in accordance with legal requirements and are applied only for the purpose which the client instructs

• To ensure that the fees and costs charged by lawyers are fair and reasonable 

• To hold lawyers to account for any act of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct and for any breach of the ethical and fiduciary duties applying to lawyers

In response to Palusalue, Tuisa said the leader of the Opposition should read the Bill carefully.

“Read both the English and Samoan version,” he said.

For Faleata West M.P, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, what he saw as an issue was the practice by the banks to refer clients, who are seeking loans, to their approved lawyers for the legal paper work.

“These banks charge over exorbitant fees,” he said. “Does the Samoa Law Society have the power over these things where a person can use a lawyer he is perhaps more comfortable with, instead of being overcharged by the lawyers used by these banks?”

Tuisa told Lealailepule that he is aware about the issue but this was not the time to discuss it.

In response, Lealailepule disagreed.

“I’m asking this because this is a part of the Bill where we should talk about this.”

Later during the day, another lawyer and Vaimauga West M.P., Lefau Harry Schuster, said Lealailepule’s complaint is legitimate but the matter should be raised under the Fair Trading.

CHAIRMAN: Tuisa Tasi Patea addresses Parliament.“The trouble is that if you are looking for a loan, it’s either you go to the bank’s lawyer or you don't get the loan,” he said.

Lefau said people should be free to choose their lawyer “even if the lawyer is stupid.”

Back to Lealailepule, he questioned why the Attorney General couldn’t vote during the election of the Council.

Section 10, Council of the Law Society (2) states, “The Attorney General is entitled to sit in and be heard at all meetings of Council but does not have voting rights”.

On another matter, Leala said he was pleased that the bill would regulate the fees charged by lawyers. The M.P for Faleata West explained that during the period of election petitions when M.Ps become desperate, they would go to any lawyer. These lawyers end up charging ridiculous fees “which some of us are still paying today.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa agrees.

He said this is why the government is moving to regulate the legal profession, to protect members of the public from being taken advantage of.

“Some (lawyers) start with $2,000 of fees and they end up overcharging you by about $20,000,” said Tuilaepa.

The Prime Minister said one of the most important developments to come from the Bill is the protection of the public, including money put in trust with law offices for future generations. He said there have been many cases where such funds have ended up on the wrong hands.

Under part 38 of the Bill in the Auditing and trust accounts subsection (1), it reads: “A solicitor must ensure that his or her trust account is audited at the end of each financial year by a certified chartered accountant.

“If within a year, the Council receives a complaint from a person about the person’s money in a solicitor’s trust account under subsection (1) the Council must, within 3 months of receiving a complaint, appoint a chartered accountant to audit the solicitor’s trust account, at the Council’s own costs.”

Tuilaepa said this is a very important process.

“Over here the accounts are audited once,” Tuilaepa pointed out.

“But in overseas countries, it is audited every four years and a lot of companies close down because they use people’s money. Nonetheless, we will start with accounts being audited once.”

Parliament continues today.

 

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