The Land Court has a broad jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes, claims and questions of title concerning land in the Kingdom (section 149 of the Land Act).
The Judges of the Land Court sit with Assessors whose role it is to assist the Judge with explanations and advice regarding Tongan usages and customs. However, the decision of the Court is formulated and announced by the Judge alone. Assessors have no voice in the decisions of the Land Court (section 146(1) of the Land Act).
Appeals from the Land Court are generally to the Court of Appeal except in cases where the appeal relates to the determination of hereditary estates and titles in which case the appeal is to His Majesty in Privy Council (section 162 of the Land Act).
The Land Court sits primarily at Nuku’alofa but undertakes circuits to the Outer Islands. The Land Court undertook two circuits to Vava’u but did not sit in Eua, Ha’apai or the Niuas as there were no cases to be heard there.
The Judges of the Land Court are appointed by His Majesty in Privy Council and hold office during His Majesty’s pleasure (section 146 of the Land Act).
The Judges able exercise the jurisdiction of the Land Court are:
- President Hon. Michael H. Whitten QC;
- Justice Charles Bentley Cato; and
- Justice Laki Niu.