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For the Movant: Craig D. Reffner, Esq.
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DENNIS K. YAMASE, Associate Justice:
On November 4, 2003, the court having found special cause due to the urgency of this matter issued a temporary restraining order through November 17, 2003 ordering the plaintiffs, and any other person or entity acting on their behalf, from interfering or attempting to interfere with the operation of the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk constructed on Lot No. 63315.
On November 13, 2003, in order to allow plaintiffs more time to secure legal counsel, to afford more time for briefs to be filed, and with the specific consent of the plaintiff, the court extended the temporary restraining order issued on November 4, 2003 for twenty-five days through December 12, 2003. FSM Civ. R. 65(b).
On December 9, 2003, a hearing was held on the FSM Telecommunications Corporationís (Telecom) motion for preliminary injunction. Telecom was represented by Craig D. Reffner, Esq. Defendant Noah Kansou was represented by Ben Enlet under the supervision of Wesley Simina, Esq. Plaintiffs Chonsy T. Kiniol and Tionis Kiniol appeared personally pro se. Plaintiff Kiniol informed the court that Frederick A. Hartman was off-island in Guam and still intended to act as her legal counsel. Mr. Hartman, however, has not yet filed an application to appear before the court.
II. Findings of Fact
After hearing the testimony of five witnesses for Telecom and one witness for the plaintiffs, the court makes the following findings of fact:
(1) Telecom is currently offering cellular telecommunications services in the State of Chuuk.
(2) Telecom has made an overall investment of $1.5 million to set up the cellular telecommunications system in the State of Chuuk, with installation costs for the construction of two cellular telecommunications towers at approximately $250,000.
(3) Telecom constructed the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk after conducting research on the ownership of the land that the tower now sits on, such research indicating that the land was known as Nichong and was owned by Noah Kansou and his brothers and sisters.
(4) Telecom then obtained an easement on the land needed for the cellular telecommunications
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tower from the defendant Noah Kansou.
(5) The plaintiffs claim to own the part of Nichong the tower is located on, as well as the adjoining parcel of Winikinerong.
(6) On October 29, 2003, Telecom received a memorandum from Fredrick A. Hartman informing Telecom that "my client has decided to take action against the FSM Telecommunications Office by having the Tower removed by the proper authorities." The memorandum further stated that "You have until the end of this working day to make a response or legal action shall be taken along with the immediate removal of your Tower by the authorities." Exhibit No. 1 introduced at the hearing on December 9, 2003.
(7) Both cellular telecommunications towers are necessary for the cell phone system in the State of Chuuk to work optimally and if one tower is incapacitated then the telecommunications coverage for cell phone users in the State of Chuuk will be greatly reduced.
(8) The Truk District Land Commission issued a determination of ownership for the land known as Nichong to Noha [sic] Kansou and his brothers and sisters determined on December 3, 1986. Exhibit No. 2 introduced at the hearing on December 9, 2003.
(9) The Chuuk State Land Commission issued a determination of ownership for the land known as Unuku-Nerong (also known as Winikinerong) to Chonsy Hartman and her brothers and sisters determined on October 23, 2003. Exhibit No. 5 introduced at the hearing on December 9, 2003.
(10) The determinations of ownership for Nichong and Winikinerong do not recite their boundaries. The Chuuk State Land Commission has not issued certificates of title for Nichong or Winikinerong.
(11) The plaintiffs allege that the boundary between Winikinerong and Nichong changed in 1978 due to a transaction between the father of defendant Noah Kansou and the father of plaintiff Chonsy Kiniol-Hartman and that this change in the boundary resulted in the plaintiffsí ownership of part of the land on which the Telecom cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk now stands.
III. Preliminary Injunction
Telecomís motion for a preliminary injunction asserts that a preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable injury to Telecomís cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk which could result in the disruption or loss of cellular telephone services within the State of Chuuk.
In exercising its broad discretion in considering a motion for a preliminary injunction, the court looks to four factors: (1) the possibility of the irreparable injury to the movant; (2) the balance of the possible injury as between the parties; (3) the movantís possibility of ultimate success on the merits; and (4) the impact upon the public interest. Ponape Transfer & Storage v. Pohnpei State Public Lands Auth. , 2 FSM Intrm. 272, 276-77 (Pon. 1986).
A. Irreparable Injury
Telecom asserts that the possibility of irreparable injury and loss is significant, since it has already invested large amounts of time, funds, and manpower to have the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk constructed. Telecom asserts that construction of the tower requires special expertise and that engineers from outside the FSM were contracted to determine the ideal location of the tower
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and to help construct the tower at significant expense. Telecom has also made significant investments of its own manpower, supplies, and equipment to effectuate the cellular telephone system in Chuuk. The court finds that there is the possibility of significant irreparable injury and loss to Telecom should the tower be tampered with or removed and the cellular telephone system shut down. Additionally, the plaintiffs do not appear to have the financial resources to adequately compensate Telecom if the tower were removed and if such removal were later determined to be improper or unlawful.
B. Balance of Possible Injuries
The balance of the possible injuries between Telecom and the plaintiffs weigh heavily in Telecomís favor, as it has clearly made significant investments in the cellular telecommunications towerís construction at Sapuk and the start-up of its cellular telephone system in the State of Chuuk. Telecom stands to lose on that investment should the tower be tampered with or removed. On the other hand, the plaintiffs, should they prevail on the merits, are in a position to recover the land and have it restored to the condition it was in before the tower was constructed there. The plaintiffs do not claim they were making any particular use of the land before the tower was located there.
C. Possible Success on the Merits
With regard to Telecomís possibility of success on the merits, Telecomís actions to construct the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk only after undertaking a survey and a search of the land commission records on the property where the tower is now located, and after obtaining an easement, demonstrates that Telecom acted prudently before proceeding on the construction of the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk.
D. Public Interest
Lastly, this situation involves the potential for significant impact on the public interest. The cellular telephone system is already in use in the State of Chuuk. This system is providing telephone service to persons who previously had none and in places where telephone service was previously not possible. The expansion of telephone services through the cellular telephone system affects the publicís health, safety and welfare and economy in the State of Chuuk in a positive manner. Having the cellular telephone system discontinued or severely restricted is not in the public interest.
IV. Conclusion and Order
All of the four aforementioned factors in considering a motion for a preliminary injunction favor issuance of the preliminary injunction.
Accordingly, it is ordered that the plaintiffs, Chonsy T. Kiniol and Tionis Kiniol, and any other person or entity acting on their behalf, are prohibited from interfering in or attempting to interfere with the operation of the cellular telecommunications tower in Sapuk constructed on Lot No. 63315. This order shall commence immediately and remain in effect while this case remains pending.
Additionally during the preliminary injunction hearing, the court raised the issues of Telecomís status as a defendant in this action and the possibility of remanding the boundary issues in this case to the Chuuk Land Commission. With regard to the latter issue, the court calls the partiesí attention to Small v. Roosevelt, Innocenti, Bruce & Crisostomo, 10 FSM Intrm. 367 (Chk. 2001). All parties in this case shall file and serve their positions on these issues on or before January 9, 2004. Any party may respond to anotherís position no later than January 19, 2004.
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The court also notes that the determinations of ownership for both Nichong and Winikinerong show that title to those lands is held not only by the named parties but by their brothers and sisters as well. These persons should be named in the pleadings and at least once in the caption. FSM Civ. R. 10(a). As co-owners, they may be indispensable parties. See Ifenuk v. FSM Telecom. Corp., 11 FSM Intrm. 201 (Chk. 2002). The plaintiffs and defendants shall file and serve, no later than January 9, 2004, their statements as to the identity of the co-owners.
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