FSM SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION

Cite as In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401 (Chk. 2009)

[16 FSM Intrm 401]

IN THE INTEREST OF J.C. MEFY, WILSON

WILIANDER, and ANSON SUZUKI,

Applicants.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 2009-1004

ORDER OF DISMISSAL

Ready E. Johnny

Associate Justice

Decided: April 27, 2009

APPEARANCE:

For the Applicants:   William E. Minkley, Esq.

                                 Office of the Public Defender

                                 P.O. Box 754

                                 Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

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HEADNOTES

Habeas Corpus

    Under 4 F.S.M.C. 117, the FSM Supreme Court has the power to issue all writs and other process as may be necessary for the due administration of justice and, under 6 F.S.M.C. 1503, the court may grant a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of imprisonment or restraint of a person, who has applied or who has had an application made on his behalf, and who is unlawfully imprisoned or restrained of his liberty under any pretense whatsoever. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403 (Chk. 2009).

[16 FSM Intrm 402]

Habeas Corpus

    An applicant for a writ of habeas corpus should name as the respondent the person who has custody over him. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403 (Chk. 2009).

Habeas Corpus

    Since habeas corpus proceedings are commenced with an order, directed to the person having custody of the person detained, to show cause why the writ should not be issued, an application is deficient when it does not name a respondent. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403 (Chk. 2009).

Constitutional Law – Case or Dispute – Mootness

    A case becomes moot when the party raising the issue lacks a legally cognizable interest in the issue’s outcome, and if the relief sought would, if granted, be ineffectual. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403 (Chk. 2009).

Constitutional Law – Case or Dispute – Mootness; Habeas Corpus

    When the issues raised in an application for a writ of habeas corpus are moot because the applicants have already been granted the relief sought ) release from jail ) any consideration or relief would thus be ineffectual. No justiciable case or dispute is presented when events subsequent to a case’s filing make the issues presented moot. Since the FSM Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to consider moot cases or issues, it must dismiss a moot application because, when the court lacks jurisdiction over a case, it should not remain lifelessly on the docket however harmless that may seem. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403 (Chk. 2009).

Criminal Law and Procedure; Habeas Corpus

    To the extent that the issues that the applicants for a writ of habeas corpus seek to raise in a moot application are significant and relevant to other issues to be raised and considered in a criminal case, they should be raised for consideration in that case in the proper manner or in a civil suit for damages. In re Mefy, 16 FSM Intrm. 401, 403-04 (Chk. 2009).

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COURT’S OPINION

READY E. JOHNNY, Associate Justice:

This civil action is dismissed on the ground that it is moot. The court’s reasoning follows.

I.

    On April 1, 2009, a written application for a writ of habeas corpus was made under oath and filed on behalf of J.C. Mefy, Wilson Wiliander, and Anson Suzuki. The application sought as relief that Mefy, Wiliander, and Suzuki be released from the Chuuk state jail and allowed bail.

    Also on April 1, 2009, the Federated States of Micronesia filed a nine-count criminal case (Crim. No. 2009-1503) against the same three persons, and on April 2, 2009, the three made their initial appearance in that criminal case. The initial appearance was conducted telephonically. When the matter of pretrial release arose, the prosecution, which sought the continued pretrial detention of the three, moved, with the defense’s acquiescence, that the hearing be continued until a judge could appear in person so that the judge would be able to assess the witnesses’ demeanor as well as hear their testimony. The pretrial release hearing was therefore continued until April 8, 2009, the day the judge usually resident in Chuuk would return from Australia.

[16 FSM Intrm 403]

    At the April 8, 2009 hearing, each of the three was granted pretrial release, effective April 9, 2009. On April 13, 2009, the court sought the parties’ views on whether, in light of the three’s pretrial release, this application had become moot and ought to be dismissed.

    The applicants filed their comments on April 23, 2009. They allege that they had been illegally restrained for over 144 hours in the Chuuk state jail and that they were neither brought before a judge without unnecessary delay and within the required 24 hours nor were they permitted to consult with counsel. They assert that these issues are not moot because they have significance and are relevant to other issues to be raised and considered in Criminal Case No. 2009-1503. The applicants conclude that the retention on the court’s docket of this application for a writ of habeas corpus does no harm and is no burden to the court.

II.

    Under 4 F.S.M.C. 117, the FSM Supreme Court has the "power to issue all writs and other process . . . as may be necessary for the due administration of justice," and under 6 F.S.M.C. 1503, the court may grant a writ of habeas corpus to a "person unlawfully imprisoned or restrained of his liberty under any pretense whatsoever," who has applied or who has had an application made on his behalf, "to inquire into the cause of such imprisonment or restraint." An application for the writ should name as the respondent "the person who has custody over him." 6 F.S.M.C. 1504. See also Sangechik v. Cheipot, 10 FSM Intrm. 105, 106 (Chk. 2001) (pleadings clearly named a person as the de facto keeper of the detention facility where the petitioner was incarcerated and sought a writ of habeas corpus directed to that person in that capacity; that person is properly named as the respondent).

    Since habeas corpus proceedings are commenced with an order, directed to the person having custody of the person detained, to show cause why the writ should not be issued, 6 F.S.M.C. 1506(1); Sangechik, 10 FSM Intrm. at 106 (Chk. 2001), this application is deficient because it does not name a respondent, who presumably would have been the Chuuk Director of Public Safety. However, the relief requested by this habeas corpus application ) release from Chuuk state jail and the allowance of bail ) was granted in Criminal Case No. 2003-1508 on April 8, 2009, before an order to show cause could be issued in this case by the presiding justice (who is the same for both cases).

    A case becomes moot when the party raising the issue lacks a legally cognizable interest in the issue’s outcome, and if the relief sought would, if granted, be ineffectual. Wainit v. FSM, 14 FSM Intrm. 476, 478 (App. 2006) (when the appellant has been released from jail on parole, any relief that the appellate court could grant the appellant on his request for release pending the outcome of his appeal, would be entirely ineffectual; the appellant’s request is therefore moot); FSM v. Udot Municipality, 12 FSM Intrm. 29, 42 (App. 2003); Fritz v. National Election Dir., 11 FSM Intrm. 442, 444 (App. 2003); FSM Dev. Bank v. Yinug, 11 FSM Intrm. 405, 410 (App. 2003); FSM v. Louis, 9 FSM Intrm. 474, 482-83 (App. 2000); Berman v. FSM Supreme Court (II), 7 FSM Intrm. 11, 16 (App. 1995). The issues raised in this application are thus moot. The applicants have already been granted the relief sought. Any consideration or relief in this moot application would thus be ineffectual.

    Since no justiciable case or dispute is presented when events subsequent to a case’s filing make the issues presented moot and since the FSM Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to consider moot cases or issues, the court therefore must dismiss this application, see Wainit, 14 FSM Intrm. at 478; Reddy v. Kosrae, 11 FSM Intrm. 595, 597 (App. 2003); Damarlane v. Pohnpei Supreme Court Appellate Division, 10 FSM Intrm. 116, 119 (Pon. 2001), even if its retention on the court’s docket would do no harm or would not burden the court. When the court lacks jurisdiction over a case, it should not remain lifelessly on the docket however harmless that may seem. To the extent that the issues that the

[16 FSM Intrm 404]

applicants seek to raise herein are significant and relevant to other issues to be raised and considered in Criminal Case No. 2009-1503, they should be raised for consideration in that case in the proper manner or in a civil suit for damages. Cf. FSM v. Wainit, 13 FSM Intrm. 433, 446 (Chk. 2005) (relief for alleged illegal search must be sought in criminal case or civil suit for damages); FSM v. Wainit, 11 FSM Intrm. 424, 436-37 (Chk. 2003) (same).

III.

Accordingly, this application for a writ of habeas corpus is dismissed.

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