CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT APPELATE DIVISION

Cite as Miochy v. Chuuk State Election Comm'n , 15 FSM Intrm. 369 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2007)

[15 FSM Intrm. 369]

REDLINO MIOCHY,

Petitioner,

vs.

CHUUK STATE ELECTION COMMISSION,

Respondent,

ONGICHY SOICHY,

Defendants,

Real Party in Interest

CIVIL APPEAL CASE NO. 09-2007

OPINION

Trial : October 5-9, 2007

Decided : October 12, 2007

BEFORE:

Hon. Keske S. Marar, Associate Justice, Presiding

Hon. Dennis K. Yamase, Temporary Justice*

Hon. Frank Casiano, Temporary Justice**
 

[15 FSM Intem. 370]

*Associate Justice, FSM Supreme Court, Pohnpei

**Attornety at Law, Weno, Chuuk
 

APPEARANCES:

For the Plaintiff:                                              Keichiro G. Dawe

                                                                       P.O. Box 481

                                                                       Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Respondent:                                      Charleston Bravo

                                                                       Assistant Attorney General

                                                                       Office of the Chuuk Attorney General

                                                                       P.O. Box 1050

                                                                       Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Real Party in Interest-Respondent:   Fredrick Hartman

                                                                       P.O. Box 453

                                                                       Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

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HEADNOTES

Elections

In conducting a trial de novo in an election contest appeal, the court is not bound to show any deference to the findings of the Chuuk State Election Commission and will consider all admissible documentary and testimonial evidence in support of the petition. Miochy v. Chuuk State Election Comm'n, 15 FSM Intrm. 369, 372 n.1 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2007).

Elections; Evidence - Burden of Proof

When a petitioner has presented sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case for relief, a respondent's motion for dismissal at the close of the petitioner's case-in-chief will be denied. Miochy v. Chuuk State Election Comm'n, 15 FSM Intrm. 369, 372 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2007).

Elections; Evidence - Burden of Proof

After the parties rest, the court makes findings of fact based on the total record in the case. The petitioner (election contestant) has the burden of proof to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence. The petitioner satisfies his burden of proof if his evidence is more convincing to the court than that of the respondents. Therefore, the petitioner must establish facts in support of his claim by evidence at least sufficient to overbalance any weight of evidence produced by the other parties. Miochy v. Chuuk State Election Comm'n, 15 FSM Intrm. 369, 372 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2007).

Evidence - Burden of Proof

When, given the weight of the evidence indicating that the petitioner was born on October 26, 1972, which was generated both before, when he did not have a vested interest in the election, and after his application for a delayed birth certificate, the court could not find that his evidence that he was born on October 26, 1971, was more convincing than that of the respondents, and therefore, he has not proven his case by a preponderance of the evidence. Miochy v. Chuuk State Election Comm'n, 15 FSM Intrm. 369, 372 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2007).

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[15 FSM Intrm. 371]

COURT’S OPINION

KESKE S. MARAR, Associate Justice:

This election contest appeal came before the court for trial pursuant to sections 130 and 131 of the Chuuk Election Code. On October 9, 2007, after the parties completed the presentation of their cases, the court took the case under advisement. The court denies the relief sought by Petitioner. The reasons follow.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the Oneisom Municipal Election held on July 31, 2007. Petitioner Redlino Miochy ran against Real Party in Interest Ongichy Soichy for the position of Deputy Mayor. In the official results, Miochy garnered 406 votes to Soichy's 303 votes. On August 9, 2007, Miochy was certified as winner of the election.

On August 10, 2007, Soichy petitioned the Chuuk State Election Commission arguing that Miochy should be disqualified from the election because he failed to meet the age requirement for Deputy Mayor provided for by Section 5 of the Oneisom Constitution, which requires that a candidate is at least 35 years old on the day of the election. On August 24, 2007, the Election Commission issued its decision finding that Miochy was born on October 26, 1972, and not October 26, 1971 as Miochy contended, and therefore was only 34 years, nine months and five days old on the day of the election. As a result, the Election Commission disqualified Miochy and declared Soichy the Deputy Mayor elect.

On September 12, 2007, Miochy filed his petition in the Chuuk State Supreme Court Appellate Division appealing the Chuuk State Election Commission decision pursuant to section 130 of the Chuuk Election Code.

II. TRIAL

A. Facts

We conducted a trial de novo in the appellate division on October 5, 8, and 9, 2007. Chk. S.L. No. 3-95-26, § 131. The parties stipulated to the record.1

On or about March 3, 1999, Miochy registered for the state and national elections, identifying his date of birth as October 26, 1972. Miochy's delayed birth certificate and passport application, both dated December 13, 2004, also identified his date of birth as October 26, 1972.

Miochy argued that other documentary evidence, namely his baptismal certificate, issued on June 27, 2007, identified Miochy's correct date of birth as October 26, 1971. Miochy presented witness Lucy Suzuky who provided testimony in support of Miochy's contention that his birth certificate was

[15 FSM Intrm. 372]

the result of a clerical error.2 Ms. Suzuky testified that she had helped Miochy prepare his application for a delayed birth certificate on December 8, 2004 and that on the application she had indicated his proper birth date of October 26, 1971. Miochy urged the court to conclude that the reason Miochy's birth certificate had the wrong birth date on it was because there had been an error in the transcription of the date of birth from his application to the actual birth certificate.3

At the close of petitioner Miochy's case-in-chief, respondent Chuuk State Election Commission moved for dismissal pursuant to Chuuk Civ. R. 41(b). The court denied the motion, determining that Petitioner Miochy presented sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case for relief. The respondents waived the presentation of their case and proceeded to closing arguments. After the parties rested, the court indicated it would take the case under advisement and issue its written opinion.

B. Application of Law to Facts

After the parties rest, the court makes findings of fact based on the total record in the case. Cholymay v Chuuk State Election Comm'n, 10 FSM. Intrm. 145, 156 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 2001). The petitioner has the burden of proof to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence. In re Lot No. 014-A-21, 11 FSM Intrm. 582, 588-89 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2003). The petitioner satisfies his burden of proof if his evidence is more convincing to the court than that of the respondents. Id. at 594. Therefore, Miochy must establish facts in support of his claim by evidence at least sufficient to overbalance any weight of evidence produced by the other parties. Id.

In making our deliberations, we did not find any particular evidence to be conclusive and instead considered the evidence presented in its totality. We especially searched the record for evidence generated when Miochy did not have a vested interest in the election. Although Ms. Suzuky's testimony was plausible, we were still troubled by inconsistencies in the record. Given the weight of the evidence indicating that Miochy was born on October 26, 1972, which was generated both before and after his application for a delayed birth certificate, we could not find that Miochy's evidence was more convincing than that of the respondents. Therefore, Miochy has not proven his case by a preponderance of the evidence.

III. CONCLUSION

Accordingly, judgment will be entered in favor of the respondents.

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Footnotes:

1.  Petitioner Miochy's argument on appeal, at least in part, was that his due process rights were violated because the Chuuk State Election Commission failed to comply with section 130 of the Chuuk Election Code, which required it to conduct a thorough investigation of the evidence offered by Miochy against Real Party in Interest Soichy's complaint contesting the election. We note that in conducting our trial de novo, we were not bound to show any deference to the findings of the Chuuk State Election Commission and considered all admissible documentary and testimonial evidence in support of Miochy's petition.

2.  A copy of the actual page of the Baptismal Registry identifying Miochy's date of birth was not introduced into evidence.

3.  Miochy's application for a delayed birth certificate was not introduced into evidence.

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