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Colonial Cases

R. v. Grosmuhl, 1899

[consular court, jurisdiction]

R. v. Grosmuhl

Chief Justice, Samoa


Source: The Times, 4 February 1899


A number of well-informed German journals discuss the action of the Chief Justice of Samoa, Mr. Chambers, in imposing a fine upon a German named Grosmuhl and in refusing subsequently to admit the sole right of the German Consul to exercise jurisdiction over German subjects.  The opinion is strongly expressed that the attitude adopted by the German Consul was entirely in accordance with the provisions of the Samoa Act and that the Chief Justice had no right to attempt to withdraw a German from the jurisdiction of the German Consular Court.


Source: The Times, 1 March 1899


The arrival of the mail from Samoa appears to have flooded the German Press with elaborate reports of the troubles which took place there at the beginning of the year.  In addition to the accounts which I transmitted yesterday, he now furnishes details of the case of the German merchant Herr Grosmuhl, who was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and to 100 days' imprisonment by Chief Justice Chamber's for having, as the Germans admit, smashed the windows of the Court when in a state of intoxication.  This action of Herr Grosmuhl is said to have been prompted by indignation at "the damage which his interests had suffered owing to the lax and partisan exercise of his judicial functions by the Chief Justice."

In arresting, trying, and sentencing Grosmuhl, Mr. Chambers is accused of having contravened article 3, section 9, of the Samoa Treaty, by which only those whites who are not subject to consular jurisdiction are amenable to the jurisdiction of the Chief Justice.  The German Consul secured the liberation of Grosmuhl though the instrumentality of his countryman, the President of the Municipal Council, Dr. Raffel, and Grosmuhl was then brought before the German Consular Court and was fined 600 marks, which he promptly paid.  He was under the necessity, however, of taking up his quarters in the German Consulate in order to escape from the clutches of the executive officers of the Chief Justice. The German population is described as being indignant that "a Chief Justice who is entirely in the meshes of English influence" should ignore the German consular jurisdiction.

Mr. Chambers is further accused of having actually asked the German Consul to forward to the German Government as despatch in which the Consul himself was accused of having in person led a detachment of Mataafa's party in an attack upon the Tivoli Hotel.  The conduct of Mr. Chambers is alleged to have been such that the German Consul-General ultimately found it necessary "to abandon the forms of Parliamentary intercourse, and to call the Chief Justice a liar straight out."

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School