Despite what was hoped to be the final, conclusive “settlement” of 1982, the family litigated several more cases, while Mike separately sought to settle title to the land and interests he had been given in exchange for his Olo quitclaim, including Fagaiofu and Fuamete, and Talimatau. The fate of Taupou and Poata remains unknown.
Margaret sued the Opelles on an alleged debt in Landrigan v. Opelle
. Where the brief and well written decision itself is amusing, the outcome was not. Ruling in favor of the Landrigans, the court ordered that the payments be deposited at the courthouse, presumably by Suhayl Alai (the Opelle’s manager). But when Margaret went to collect the money, as she later reported, “Judge Kruse said the courthouse searched high and low, but the money – or any record of it – was nowhere to be found.” In other renditions, she said, “Keith, being a nice guy, just forgot about it all.”
John’s Probate is of interest, especially since the court awarded a life estate at Olo to Dotsy on its own motion. (see here
) Charles Alailima, the attorney, had not thought to ask for that, or had deferred, perhaps because the property was in trust. Sadly, this put Dotsy in charge of John’s section of the land at Olo, with the authority to permit the Tongans to live there, which she did. John’s probate opened the door to Dotsy’s Hawaii guardianship petition, which has forever fascinated Roy Hall as a source of impeachment documentary evidence. (see here
At the time of John’s probate, Robin wrote the court to ask whether there had been an eviction action filed concerning the Tongans (since informed by Carrie that Mike had a plan for a “permanent” solution
). The Judge himself wrote back. At first he wrote that no action was filed over anything, then reversed himself, having learned that plaintiff had recently filed the Kneubuhl v. Opelle and Alai
suit (2001), wherein Frances and the Alai family were sued to break their lease and subleases at Olo. The more important goal of the suit was to have the court validate the 1974 Land Planning Agreement
(or perhaps to enforce the forfeiture clause). None of Ben’s or any of John’s heirs were noticed of this suit, and James’ endorsement was sought through Margaret. An introduction
to the litigation is here and a background summary of events is is here
. (photos coming soon of Margaret’s visit to Connecticut) The pleadings
are less important than the documents
; the opinion
is essential. Alailima’s email
advising what happens when the lease would expire is dispositive. The family conversation
which began in in the 1980’s is of interest, since the lawyers ignored it. Most important, this ended the arguments promoting the validity of the 1974 Land Planning Agreement, and its purported or intended supremacy over the trust itself. (see both in historical documents
). A framework for new litigation on the Alai matter is here
, and Robin’s objection to Attorney Ashley here
. Both are presently privileged, hence pin access only.
In 2004, in Opelle v. Kneubuhl, et al, Frances sought a declaratory judgement that nothing constrained her from selling her land at Olo, believing that the Trust restrained and limited only the Trustee, not the beneficiaries. Read strictly, she was correct. So, the court made the exceptional, surprising finding in its decision and order correcting that individual beneficiaries may sell their interests only, since, after all, that is all they own, but must offer first refusal. Since legal title is vested only in the trustee, then only the trustee may sell legal title to the land itself. Represented by Charles Alailima and David Vargas, (see memos, Alailima memo here) pleadings, a show cause and answer) affidavits flew from both Mike and Margaret, abundant evidence was obtained, Frances testified, (see also here), and her husband was deposed. The trial transcript is here. She won almost everything the judge could offer.This 2006 ruling opened the door to the next decade of efforts by the present day defendants to sell the land or interests (the lack of clarity about the difference was of concern to the court in its 2006 Order and Order Correcting), and guided the present plaintiffs’ efforts to address and prevent these attempted sales without resort to litigation, including the appointment of a trustee and preparation of the ill-fated Memorandum of Understanding.
In a very surprising decision, the High Court, The Hon. Elvis Patea, presiding, reversed Judge Richmond’s decision, invalidated the first refusal requirement, and declared all of Frances’ transfers invalid. None of that is surprising, but the court went further: he declared that only biological children could be beneficiaries, and that the trust would end per stirpes, when the last child in each stirp dies.
At the conclusion of Opelle v. Kneubuhl, Charles Alailima filed constitutional claims with Frances and Kishon Lua as plaintiffs against the American Samoa Government. It is unclear whether Frances knew of this litigation.
Lawsuits were brought over both Fagaiofu and Fuamete, when Mike sought to establish title. It was problematic that he planned to do this in his name only, since Frances owned 1/6 of those properties and Talimatau as well. A notice of intention to file a Fagaiofu claim has been placed in the land records a “caveat forbidding registration”. Frances has also begun litigation in California over Fagaiofu in 2018. (Selected files appear at the end of the section “Procedural History” in the Present Litigation pages). Defendant’s assertion and sworn claim of chain of title is that the transaction was a gift in 1984, either for a debt, out of love, or another reason. See The Love Deeds
. Because that case is potentially pending appeal, the complete file is pin access only. The High Court of American Samoa might have been asked to make a finding that a breach of fiduciary duty
had occurred with regard to Fagaiofu, since it retained jurisdiction over the 1982 Settlement Agreement
. That claim was never made. Because Frances’ removed her case to California, it does not appear in the conclusive claims adjudicated recently in 2018 at the High Court. It can be viewed through the California websites online. There are two prior Fagaiofu decisions, the judgment
and the appeal
. In these latter two cases Mike evicted the trespassers and put the title in his name alone.
This decade included new Fuamete litigation, wherein sole ownership is contested with affidavits to that effect. Because Fuamete issues concern only Frances and Mike, it is of general, but quiescent interest, since a remote possibility remains that judgments there could affect all of Lena’s family, especially where the status of the assets at Olo will remain unresolved for now. (see Fuamete