Supreme Court judge receives top alumni award from the University of Waikato

20 July 2022

Leilani Tuala-Warren
2022 Distinguished Alumna Leilani Tuala-Warren

Samoa’s influential judge, Justice Leilani Tuala-Warren has dedicated her career to making a difference for her communities. For that, she has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

Justice Tuala-Warren has a long-standing relationship with the University of Waikato. Graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in 1997 and a Master of Laws in 1998, she then returned in 2000 to teach the next generation of lawyers. She is an Honorary Lecturer for Te Piringa Faculty of Law.

Since then she has had an exceptional career working as a State Solicitor of the Attorney General and a Family and Commercial lawyer for Tuala & Tuala Law before being appointed the first Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission in 2008.

Just five years later, Chief Justice Patu Tiavaasue Falefatu Maka Sapolu invited her to become a judge of the District Court, and in doing so she became the second woman in Samoa appointed to the bench.

As a newly appointed judge, Justice Tuala-Warren was asked to establish the Family Court and the Family Violence Court, the only court of its kind in the Pacific outside of New Zealand.

“The Family Violence Court is a therapeutic court where the process is holistic and focuses on the whole family, including offenders and victims. I find this work really rewarding, and enjoy working with the families - they want to heal together, and it’s a process that works well in this country,” she says.

In 2016 she left the Family Violence Court to become a Justice of the Supreme Court of Samoa where she deals with serious offences and constitutional cases.

Justice Tuala-Warren has used her public profile for good by advocating for social issues within the Samoan community and by paving the way for women.

She says a career highlight was when she and her fellow Supreme Court judges worked to protect constitutional law during the 2021 Samoan Elections.

“We spent a lot of time reading and writing. It lifted me and I thought, ‘this is why I am here’.”

Today, Justice Tuala-Warren and her husband, fellow law alumnus and Māori Land Court judge Aidan Warren, manage their work and family life with four children between their respective roles in Samoa and New Zealand.

She is one of four Distinguished Alumni awardees to be recognised at a ceremony later this month along with director Jennifer Kerr, Māori business leaders and governors Hinerangi Raumati MNZM and Jamie Tuuta.

Latest stories

Related stories

University Council members at The Pā

University Council visits The Pā

University Council members visited the site of The Pā this week.

Jennifer Kerr

Waikato alumna recognised for contribution to communities

Director and criminal justice supporter, Jennifer Kerr has been recognised by the University of Waikato…

Keshav Mahindra

Double major and university at 16

Keshav Mahindra achieved University Entrance and NCEA Level 3, all there was left to do…

University of Waikato recognises high-achieving alumni

A Supreme Court judge, Māori business leaders and professional directors are being recognised by the…

Callum Saunders

Waikato athletes in Birmingham

Thirteen University of Waikato students and alumni will be competing in this year’s Commonwealth Games…

Hinerangi Raumati

Governor and Māori business leader acknowledged by University of Waikato

Ms Raumati (Waikato, Ngāti Mutunga) has been recognised by the University of Waikato for her…

Jamie Tuuta

Business leader honoured by University for services to his community

Jamie Tuuta is a busy man. At the age of 19, he was the rangitahi…

Elise Legarth

Predicting climate change events

Bachelor of Science graduate Elise Legarth hopes her PhD in flood forecasting and hydrometeorology in…

Bryce Cooper and Neil Quigley

University Medal for freshwater champion

The University of Waikato has awarded its prestigious University Medal to Dr Bryce Cooper.

Comms professionals reimagine the future of local government

Waikato Management School (WMS) welcomed around 100 local government communications professionals from throughout New Zealand…

Bethany Angus

Lucrative scholarships support University of Waikato graduates overseas

Bethany Angus, Felicity Tomkins and Gracie Francis have been awarded the Kia Ora Foundation Patricia…

Matariki stargazing in Hamilton

Celebrating Matariki at Waikato

The University of Waikato has celebrated Matariki with a number of public and staff events…