FSM SUPREME COURT APPELLATE DIVISION

Cite as Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291 (App. 2006)

[14 FSM Intrm. 291]

PETER M. CHRISTIAN, in his official official capacity

as the Speaker of the Fourteenth Congress of the

Federated States of Micronesia,

Petitioner,

vs.

JOSEPH J. URUSEMAL, in his official capacity as

the President of the Federated States of Micronesia,

Respondent.

CASE NO. P2-2006

ORDER OF DISMISSAL

Decided: June 22, 2006

BEFORE:

     Hon. Andon L. Amaraich, Chief Justice, FSM Supreme Court

     Hon. Martin G. Yinug, Associate Justice, FSM Supreme Court

     Hon. Dennis K. Yamase, Associate Justice, FSM Supreme Court

APPEARANCES:

For the Petitioner:   T. Lam Dang, Esq.

                                  Legislative Counsel

                                  Fourteenth Congress of the FSM

                                  P.O. Box PS-3

                                  Palikir, Pohnpei   FM   96942

[14 FSM Intrm. 292]

For the Respondent:   Janhabi Nandy, Esq.

                                      Assistant Attorney General

                                      FSM Department of Justice

                                      P.O. Box PS-105

                                      Palikir, Pohnpei   FM   96941

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HEADNOTES

Appellate Review ) Decisions Reviewable

    The appellate division may consider "direct appeals" in cases of national importance and extreme time sensitivity involving the national government. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 293 (App. 2006).

Appellate Review ) Motions

    Motions may be decided without oral argument. Even an appealís merits may be submitted on the briefs and decided without oral argument if the parties agree. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 293 (App. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute; Separation of Powers

    A Presidentís reason for vetoing the bills passed during the Fourteenth Congressís Second Special Session is a non-justiciable issue because when the Constitution has a textually demonstrable commitment of an issue to a coordinate branch of government, it is a nonjusticiable political question not to be decided by the court because of the separation of powers provided for in the Constitution. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 294 (App. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute; Separation of Powers

    The Constitution does not limit the grounds upon which the President can veto bills. The President can veto any bill for any reason he chooses. The Constitution requires the President to return to Congress, within ten days, a bill he has vetoed along with his objections. Congress then makes its own determination of whether those objections will stand by either overriding or sustaining the veto. Invalidation or nullification of a Presidential veto is textually committed by the Constitution to Congress because the power to override a Presidential veto is expressly delegated to Congress. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 294 (App. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute; Separation of Powers

    The Presidentís reasons for vetoing a bill cannot be questioned in the judicial branch. The court has no jurisdiction to grant the relief of declaring the Presidentís vetoes void regardless of what the Presidentís objections were. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 294 (App. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute

    When the Congress Speaker asks the court, before any enactment process has been completed, to advise the parties on exactly where in the process they stand, the Speaker asks the court for an advisory opinion, which it cannot give. The Constitution restricts the FSM Supreme Courtís jurisdiction to actual cases and disputes. It does not sit to render advisory opinions. Christian v. Urusemal, 14 FSM Intrm. 291, 294 (App. 2006).

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[14 FSM Intrm. 293]

COURTíS OPINION

PER CURIAM:

    On April 20, 2006, Fourteenth Congress Speaker Peter M. Christian filed this case as a "direct appeal" in the FSM Supreme Court appellate division. (Due to inconsistencies in the Speakerís pleadings, the clerks inadvertently filed the case in the trial division and docketed it as Civil Action No. 2006-009. The Chief Clerk, by his May 29, 2006 Notice, "terminated" Civil Action No. 2006-009 and assigned appellate division docket number P2-2006 to this matter.) The appellate division has previously considered "direct appeals" in cases of national importance and extreme time sensitivity involving the national government. See Urusemal v. Capelle, 12 FSM Intrm. 577, 582-83 (App. 2004). This direct appeal is therefore before us in the appellate division.

     President Joseph J. Urusemal moves to dismiss this case. We grant his motion. Our reasons follow.

I.

    The Speakerís "Complaint" raises two claims. First, his petition asserts that President Urusemalís vetoes of the bills passed by the Fourteenth Congress during its Second Special Session (February 27 to March 3, 2006) were improper because the vetoes were based on erroneous grounds and the court should order them set aside. The President vetoed the bills on the ground that the billsí first readings and second readings were held on the same calendar day in violation of the Constitution which provides that "[t]o become law, a bill must pass 2 readings on separate days." FSM Const. art. IX, ß 20. The Speaker contends that while the bills in question were passed on two readings on the same calendar day the readings were held on separate "legislative" days because Congress starts its days at 10:00 a.m.

    Second, the Speakerís petition asserts, in the alternative, that, if we hold that the Constitution requires that bills must pass two readings on separate calendar days, then we must order the Presidentís vetoes set aside as premature because the bills have not yet passed a valid second reading in Congress.

II.

    On May 11, 2006, the President filed his motion to dismiss. On May 15, 2006, the Speaker filed his opposition. On May 19, 2006, the President filed his reply to the opposition. On May 25, 2006, the parties filed a joint motion asking us to decide on the Presidentís motion to dismiss without oral argument.

    Motions may be decided without oral argument. Even an appealís merits may be submitted on the briefs and decided without oral argument if the parties agree. FSM App. R. 34(f). We therefore grant the partiesí motion to decide without oral argument the Presidentís motion to dismiss.

III.

    The Presidentís motion to dismiss raises three grounds: 1) that the bills were not passed in accordance with the Constitution because the only possible meaning of the constitutional provision requiring readings on separate days is that the readings must be on different calendar days; 2) that the court does not have jurisdiction to review a presidential vetoís basis; and 3) that the Speaker does not have standing to bring this case because there is no case or dispute so that any opinion the court could

[14 FSM Intrm. 294]

give would be advisory. The Speaker responds that Congressís procedure in passing the bills was constitutional because Congress can, under its power to make its own rules, FSM Const. art. IX, ß 17(b), define a day in any manner it chooses and that it chooses to start a day at 10:00 a.m.; and that the FSM Supreme Court has jurisdiction to decide this case because the court has the power to issue preemptory writs and what the Speaker seeks is equitable relief akin to the extraordinary writ of prohibition.

    We conclude that the Presidentís reason for vetoing the bills passed during the Fourteenth Congressís Second Special Session is a non-justiciable issue. When the Constitution has a textually demonstrable commitment of an issue to a coordinate branch of government, it is a nonjusticiable political question not to be decided by the court because of the separation of powers provided for in the Constitution. Aten v. National Election Commír (III), 6 FSM Intrm. 143, 145 (App. 1993).

    The Constitution does not limit the grounds upon which the President can veto bills. The President can veto any bill for any reason he chooses. The Constitution requires the President to return to Congress, within ten days, a bill he has vetoed along with his objections. FSM Const. art. IX, ß 22. Congress then makes its own determination of whether those objections will stand by either overriding or sustaining the veto. Invalidation or nullification of a Presidential veto is textually committed by the Constitution to Congress because the power to override a Presidential veto is expressly delegated to Congress. FSM Const. art. IX, ß 2(q). The Presidentís reasons for vetoing a bill therefore cannot be questioned in the judicial branch. We have no jurisdiction to grant the Speakerís requested relief of declaring the Presidentís vetoes void regardless of what the Presidentís objections were.

    We also have no jurisdiction to grant the Speakerís alternative requested relief ) that the Presidentís vetoes be set aside as premature because the bills have not yet passed a valid second reading in Congress. Congress has neither overridden or sustained the Presidentís veto. Nor has Congress passed any of the bills on a "second" second reading and contended that those bills have become law. (Congress could also introduce and pass on two separate calendar days bills identical to the ones passed in the Second Special Session and present them to the President for his approval.) The Speaker asks us, before any enactment process has been completed, to advise the parties on exactly where in the process they stand. The Speaker thus asks us for an advisory opinion. This we cannot give. The Constitution restricts the FSM Supreme Courtís jurisdiction to actual cases and disputes. FSM v. Louis, 9 FSM Intrm. 474, 481 (App. 2000). We do not sit to render advisory opinions. Fritz v. National Election Dir., 11 FSM Intrm. 442, 444 (App. 2003).

IV.

    Accordingly, we have no jurisdiction to adjudicate the Speakerís claims or to grant either the relief sought or the alternative relief sought. The Presidentís motion to dismiss is therefore granted.

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