KOSRAE STATE COURT TRIAL DIVISION

Cite as Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006)

[14 FSM Intrm. 295]

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF

YOKO K. SIGRAH,

Petitioner,

vs.

ROBINHOOD NODA, in his capacity as

Chief of Police and the Kosrae State Jail,

Respondent.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 76-06

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS;

ORDER FOR LIMITED RELEASE

Aliksa B. Aliksa

Chief Justice

Hearings: June 19, 20, 23, 2006

Decided: June 23, 2006

APPEARANCES:

For the Petitioner:   Harry A. Seymour, Esq.

                                  Office of the Public Defender

                                   P.O. Box 245

                                   Tofol, Kosrae   FM   96944

For the Respondent:  J.D. Lee, Esq.

                                     Kosrae Attorney General

                                     Edwin Mike, State Prosecutor

                                     P.O. Box 870

                                     Tofol, Kosrae   FM   96944

* * * *

HEADNOTES

Habeas Corpus

    Kosrae State Code, Title 6, Chapter 34, states the prompt timeframe in which habeas corpus petitions must be considered. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 297-98 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Habeas Corpus

    The Kosrae State Court has jurisdiction to hear a petition for a writ of habeas corpus while the prisonerís appeal is pending. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Habeas Corpus

    The requirements for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus under Kosrae State Code ß 6.3401, have not been satisfied when there has been no evidence presented to the court that the prisoner is

[14 FSM Intrm. 296]

being unlawfully imprisoned at the Kosrae state jail. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Habeas Corpus

    A writ of habeas corpus may be issued upon a finding that there is an unlawful restraint of the prisonerís liberty. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Fundamental Rights; Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    The right to marry is a fundamental constitutional right. Prisoners retain that right, but the right is subject to substantial restrictions as a result of imprisonment. Prisons may regulate the time and place of the wedding ceremony. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners

    A prisonerís rights to privacy and association, particularly intimate association, are necessarily impacted and limited during the period of imprisonment. Persons convicted of crimes and serving a sentence of imprisonment necessarily have their rights of privacy and intimate association lost or restricted as a consequence of their imprisonment. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    A prisonerís right to marry has not been violated when the wedding ceremony will take place at the Kosrae state jail because the prison has authority to regulate a prisonerís wedding ceremony, including the regulation of the ceremonyís time and place. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    A prisonerís rights to privacy and association, including intimate association, do not include the right to be married at his family home. The prisonerís right to privacy and association are necessarily limited during his period of imprisonment. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 298 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners; Domestic Relations ) Marriage; Habeas Corpus

    Since a prisonerís rights to marry, privacy and association are not violated by the jailerís restriction of the location of prisonerís wedding ceremony to the Kosrae state jail, there is no unlawful restraint of the prisonerís liberty, and thus, a petition for the writ of habeas corpus to be married at home will be denied. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 299 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Constitutional Law ) Judicial Guidance Clause; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    The Kosrae State Court recognizes the universal importance of marriage in our societies; the social and geographical configuration of Kosrae; and the importance of family relationships in our communities and of the building of new family relationships through marriages. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 299 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Custom and Tradition ) Kosrae; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    Kosrae customary practice is to hold wedding ceremonies at a church or at the home of the bride or groom. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 299 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

Criminal Law and Procedure ) Prisons and Prisoners; Domestic Relations ) Marriage

    Considering the stateís geographic and social configuration, the customary importance of marriages in the state and its effects upon the family and community relationships in Kosrae, the

[14 FSM Intrm. 297]

customary location of wedding ceremonies in Kosrae and the absence of any held at the state jail, a request for a prisoner to be married outside of the jail may be granted, in part, upon fulfillment of conditions. Sigrah v. Noda, 14 FSM Intrm. 295, 299 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2006).

* * * *

COURTíS OPINION

ALIKSA B. ALIKSA, Chief Justice:

    Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on June 15, 2006. Respondent filed a Response to the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on June 19, 2006. A hearing was held on June 20, 2006. Harry Seymour, Public Defender, represented the Petitioner. Respondent was represented by Attorney General JD Lee and Edwin Mike, State Prosecutor. The parties submitted supplemental briefing on the issue of this Courtís jurisdiction to hear the Petition, and the hearing was continued on June 23, 2006.

    Petitioner seeks the supervised limited release of prisoner John Kinere from the Kosrae State Jail for the purpose of a wedding ceremony. Petitioner also seeks the supervised limited release of prisoner John Kinere for the purpose of completing the physical examination at the Kosrae State Hospital required by law in order to obtain a marriage license. Petitioner argues that the prisoner has a right to marry the Petitioner, and that Kosraean custom dictates that the wedding ceremony be held away from the jail, at the prisonerís family home. Petitioner argues that denial of the prisonerís right to marry at his family home is a violation of his right to marry, right to privacy and right to association.

    Respondent opposes the Petition on the grounds that the prisoner is being held in custody at the Kosrae State Jail lawfully pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed following a plea agreement in which the prisoner had pled guilty to the offenses of kidnapping and sexual abuse of two minor boys. Respondent argues that the prisoner has not been denied his right to marry, that the marriage ceremony may take place at the Kosrae State Jail. Respondent argues that during prisonerís imprisonment, his rights to privacy and intimate associate is necessarily restricted. Respondent also argues that allowing the prisonerís wedding ceremony to take place outside of the jail facility will result in a great burden upon its manpower and resources and initiate further requests from prisoners for similar accommodation.

    At the hearing on June 19, this Court raised the issue of its jurisdiction to entertain this Petition, as the prisoner has filed an appeal relating to his imprisonment imposed in Criminal Case 38-01. That appeal is currently pending with the Appellate Division of the FSM Supreme Court. The parties submitted supplemental written briefing on the issue of this Courtís jurisdiction and argument were heard on June 26, 2006.

    After hearing from the parties, consideration of the written briefs and arguments, application of the law and custom, I ruled as follows.

I.   Jurisdiction of this Court to Consider the Petition.

    The issue of this Courtís jurisdiction over the Petition was raised. The prisoner has an appeal pending with the FSM Supreme Court, Appellate Division, which pertains to his imprisonment in this matter. Kosrae State Code, Title 6, Chapter 34, governs habeas corpus proceedings. The provisions governing habeas corpus proceedings state the prompt timeframe in which such petitions shall be considered. Furthermore, this Court has found no authority to deny consideration of a petition for writ

[14 FSM Intrm. 298]

of habeas corpus, based upon a pending appeal. Accordingly, I conclude that this Court does have jurisdiction to hear the Petitionerís Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, and shall proceed to do so.

II.   Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

    The requirements for issuance of a Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to Kosrae State Code, Section 6.3401, have not been satisfied. There has been no evidence presented to this Court that the prisoner is being unlawfully imprisoned at the Kosrae State Jail. Based upon the records in this matter and records of this Court pertaining to the prisoner, John Kinere, I conclude that the prisoner is lawfully imprisoned at the Kosrae State Jail, pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed in Criminal Case No. 38-01, following conviction upon a plea agreement. The prisoner was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty years, of which he has served approximately five years.

    A Writ of Habeas Corpus may also be issued upon a finding that there is an unlawful restraint of the prisonerís liberty. The Petitioner argues that denial of the prisonerís request to have his wedding ceremony at his family home is an unlawful restraint of his liberty. Petitioner argues that this denial is a violation of his right to marry, right to privacy and right to association.

    Respondent has offered to allow the Petitioner and prisoner to be married at the jail facility. Respondent denies that the prisoner has a right to marry at a place and time of his choosing, and that the prisoner has rights to privacy and intimate associate during his period of imprisonment at the Kosrae State Jail.

    There are no reported FSM cases which address these issued raised in the Petition, therefore we turn to United States cases for guidance. It is clearly established that the right to marry is a fundamental constitutional right. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010 (1967). Prisoners retain that right to marry, but this right is subject to substantial restrictions as a result of imprisonment. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 107 S. Ct. 2254, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64 (1987). The prisons may regulate the time and place of the wedding ceremony. See 60 Am. Jur. 2d Penal and Correctional Institutions ß 115, at 974-75 (2d ed. 2003).

    A prisonerís right to privacy and association, particularly intimate association, are necessarily impacted and limited during the period of imprisonment. Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 104 S. Ct. 3244, 82 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1984). United States cases recognize the right to marry as a constitutional right of prisoners, but further hold that other aspects of the marital relationship such as privacy and intimate association do not exist for prisoners. Id.; Turner v. Safley. Persons convicted of crimes and serving a sentence of imprisonment necessarily have their rights of privacy and intimate association lost or restricted as a consequence of their imprisonment.

    Based upon the above analysis, I conclude that the prisonerís right to marry has not been violated. The Respondent has authority to regulate the wedding ceremony of a prisoner, including the regulation of time and place of the ceremony. The Respondent will permit the wedding ceremony to take place at the Kosrae State Jail. There has been no denial of the prisonerís right to marry.

    I further conclude that the prisonerís right to privacy and association, including intimate association, has not been violated. The prisonerís right to privacy during his period of incarceration does not include the right to be married at his family home. Likewise, the prisonerís rights to privacy and association, including intimate association, do not include the right to be married at his family home. The prisonerís right to privacy and association are necessarily limited during his period of imprisonment.

[14 FSM Intrm. 299]

    The prisonerís rights to marry, privacy and association have not been violated by Respondentís restriction of the location of prisonerís wedding ceremony to the Kosrae State Jail. For the reasons stated above, there has been no unlawful restraint of the prisonerís liberty by the Respondent. Accordingly, the Petition for the Writ of Habeas Corpus is denied.

III.   Custom and Tradition of Kosrae State.

     Petitioner argues that custom and tradition of Kosrae State recognize the importance of marriage, its effects on the bride and groom, and upon the two families coming together in a new relationship forged by the wedding. Respondent does not deny these arguments.

    This Court recognizes the universal importance of marriage in our societies. The Court further recognizes the social and geographical configuration of Kosrae State, the importance of family relationships in our communities, and the building of new family relationships through marriages. This Court has long recognized the customary importance of funerals within our communities, and has established procedures through General Court Order to permit prisoners to participate in funerals of family members. Kos. GCO 2001-4.

    The Court takes judicial notice of the Kosrae customary practice of holding wedding ceremonies at a church or at the home of the bride or groom. The Court is not aware of, nor have the parties provided any evidence of, any wedding ceremonies of inmates which have taken place at the Kosrae State Jail.

IV.   Burden upon the Respondent.

    Respondent argues that the granting of Petitionerís request to allow the wedding ceremony at the prisonerís home would impose in a great manpower and financial burden upon the State. Respondent argues that meager resources of the Division of Public Safety should not be stretched further to accommodate the Petitionerís request. The Court is very mindful of the precarious financial condition of the State, in light of reduced funding, budget shortfalls and expenditure restrictions. Furthermore, the Court takes judicial notice of the current and immediate gasoline shortage in the State, which has resulted in extreme hardship not only upon Government activities, but also private citizens. It is undisputed that allowing the wedding ceremony to be held at the prisonerís family home would require an expenditure of manpower for supervision of the prisoner, and the expenditure of scarce or unavailable gasoline by the Division of Public Safety. These expenditures would also need to be made by the Respondent to allow the prisoner to complete the physical examination at the Kosrae State Hospital, as required by State Law to obtain a marriage license.

V.   Order.

    Following careful consideration of all arguments made by the parties, consideration of the geographic and social configuration of the State, the customary importance of marriages in the State and its effects upon the family and community relationships in Kosrae, the customary location of wedding ceremonies in Kosrae State and the absence of any held at the Kosrae State Jail, Petitionerís request is granted, in part, upon fulfillment of conditions, as follows.

    The prisoner shall be permitted limited release from the Kosrae State Jail under direct supervision of a Kosrae State Police Officer to complete his physical exam at the Kosrae State Hospital, as required by State Law to obtain his marriage license, under the condition that the costs of transporting and supervising the prisoner are paid in advance to the Respondent, on behalf of the prisoner. The prisoner shall be permitted limited release from Kosrae State Jail under direct supervision of a Kosrae State

[14 FSM Intrm. 300]

Police Officer to participate in his wedding ceremony, for a maximum of two hours duration. The prisoner shall remain in view of the supervising Police Officer at all times. The costs of transporting and supervising the prisoner shall include the following items: overtime payroll costs for the supervising Kosrae State Police Officer for the estimated time of the physical exam and the two hours for the ceremony; and the cost of fuel for the police vehicle. In consideration of the current fuel situation, the Respondent may require that the fuel actually be provided to the Respondent. The Respondent shall provide the total of the overtime payroll and fuel costs (or actual fuel request) to the Petitioner within 5 days of the entry of this Order, and shall file a copy with this Court. Upon full payment of the overtime payroll and fuel costs to Respondent, or upon providing the actual fuel, if requested by the Respondent, on behalf of the prisoner, the parties shall coordinate the timing of the physical examination and wedding ceremony.

* * * *