High Court of Tuvalu

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High Court of Tuvalu
Coat of arms of Tuvalu.svg
Established 1978
Country Tuvalu Tuvalu
Location Funafuti
Authorized by Constitution of Tuvalu
Decisions are appealed to Court of Appeal of Tuvalu
Number of positions 3
Chief Justice
Currently The Hon Charles Sweeney QC
Since 2016
Coat of arms of Tuvalu.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Main article: Tuvalu

The High Court of Tuvalu is the superior court as it has unlimited original jurisdiction to determine the Law of Tuvalu and hears appeals from the lower courts.[1]

General jurisdiction of the High Court[edit]

The High Court of Tuvalu has general jurisdiction and responsibility, as authorised by sections 120 to 133 of the Constitution of Tuvalu. The jurisdiction of the High Court extends over both criminal and civil matters, and deals with cases at first instance or on appeal from the lower courts. The administration of the court is set out in Superior Courts Act (1987) and the admiralty jurisdiction is addressed in the Admiralty Jurisdiction (Tuvalu) Order (1975).

Lower courts[edit]

There are eight Island Courts and Lands Courts; appeals in relation to land disputes are made to the Lands Courts Appeal Panel. Appeals from the Island Courts and the Lands Courts Appeal Panel are made to the Magistrates Court, which has jurisdiction to hear civil cases involving up to $10,000.

Jurisdiction of the High Court in constitutional matters[edit]

Section 5 of the Constitution establishes the jurisdiction of the High Court in constitutional matters; with sections 40 to 42 confirming the jurisdiction of the High Court to determine questions in relation to the Bill of Rights is set out in Part II of the Constitution.

Amasone v. Attorney General was a judgment of Ward CJ delivered on 6 August 2003. The leader of the opposition requested an order regarding the calling of parliament. The Chief Justice delivered directions as to how the governor-general should proceed to take any action he considers to be appropriate under Section 116(1) of the Constitution, acting in his own deliberate judgment, rather than as advised by the cabinet.[2] That is, the governor-general could consider whether it was appropriate to exercise his reserve powers in calling parliament.

Teonea v. Pule o Kaupule of Nanumaga was a judgment of Ward CJ given delivered 11 October 2005.[3] The case raised issues in relation to the balancing the freedoms of religion, expression and association that are set out in the Constitution of Tuvalu against the values of Tuvaluan culture and social stability that are also referred to in the Constitution. This matter went on appeal to the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu.[4]

Chief Justice of Tuvalu[edit]

Tuvalu appoints an experienced judicial officer or Queen's Counsel from another country as the Chief Justice. The current Chief Justice is The Hon Charles Sweeney QC. He succeeded Sir Gordon Ward in early 2016.[5]

Sir Gordon Ward, the previous Chief Justice of Tuvalu, is a former President of the Court of Appeal of Fiji, and former Lord Chief Justice of Tonga.[6] Sir Gaven Donne, who retired in 2001, was the Chief Justice of Tuvalu prior to Sir Gordon Ward. Sir Dermot Renn Davis was Chief Justice from 1978 to 1980.

In May 2013 Sir Gordon Ward ruled on the application of the Tuvaluan Opposition regarding the calling of a by-election for the vacant seat in Nukufetau,[7] which led to the Nukufetau by-election, 2013.[8] The Chief Justice was forced to conduct the legal proceedings by email as a consequence of being unable to travel from New Zealand to Tuvalu via Fiji as the Fijian government refused to provide Sir Gordon Ward with a visa that allowed him to travel from New Zealand to Fiji and then to transit to Tuvalu.[9]

The Hon. Robin Millhouse QC, former Chief Justice of Kiribati, was Acting Chief Justice of Tuvalu in February 2014, March 2015 and early 2016 as the Fijian government continued to refuse to provide Sir Gordon Ward with a transit visa.[9] The Hon. Robin Millhouse is currently a judge of the High Court of Tuvalu. The Hon Norman Franzi was appointed as a judge of the High Court in June 2016.

Court of Appeal of Tuvalu[edit]

Rulings of the High Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu.


  1. ^ "Tuvalu Courts System Information". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Amasone v Attorney General [2003] TVHC 4; Case No 24 of 2003 (6 August 2003)". PACLII. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Teonea v Kaupule [2005] TVHC 2; HC CC No 23 of 2003 (11 October 2005)". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Teonea v Pule o Kaupule of Nanumaga [2009] TVCA 2; Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. 1 of 2005 (4 November 2009)". PACLII. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Hon Charles Sweeney QC". Michael Kirby Chambers. 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  6. ^ "Tuvalu govt yet to address Fiji travel ban on Chief Justice". Radio New Zealand International. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Attorney General, In re Application under Section 131(1) of the Constitution of Tuvalu [2014] TVHC 15; Civil Case 1.2013 (24 May 2013)". PACLII. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Matau, Robert (June 2013). "Tuvalu's high court orders by-election to be held". Island Business. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Tuvalu Judge unable to transit via Fiji". Cook Islands News. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Jennifer Corrin-Care, Tess Newton and Don Paterson (1999), Introduction to South Pacific Law, London: Cavendish Publishing 

External links[edit]