KOSRAE STATE COURT TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as Heirs of Shrew Likiaksa v. Heirs of Kilafwa Lonno,
3 FSM Intrm. 465
(Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988)
HEIRS OF SHREW LIKIAKSA,
HEIRS OF KILAFWA LONNO,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 47-85
Before Edward C. King*
October 17, 1988
Kosrae, Caroline Islands 96944
For the Appellants: Akiyusi Palsis
Kosrae State 96944
For the Appellees: Aliksa B. Aliksa
Kosrae State 96944
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Kosrae State Land Commission's determination of ownership of certain lands called Limes, in Lelu, parcel No. 050-K-00, made on July 21, 1985, was sound and fair and will therefore be affirmed by the court. Heirs of Likiaksa v. Heirs of Lonno, 3 FSM Intrm. 465, 468 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
Kosrae State Land Commission properly relied on the decision of the Trust Territory High Court in civil action No. 47 (1953) as establishing that a person's name on the Japanese Survey of Kosrae was not conclusive evidence of ownership in 1932 of the land indicated. Heirs of Likiaksa v. Heirs of Lonno, 3 FSM Intrm. 465, 468 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
Kosrae State Land Commission was not required as a matter of law to accept as true the Japanese Survey's designation of Fred Likiaksa as owner, in 1932, of certain lands called Limes, in Lelu, parcel No. 050-K-00. Heirs of Likiaksa v. Heirs of Lonno, 3 FSM Intrm. 465, 468 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
Kosrae State Land Commission properly relied on the decision of the Trust Territory High Court in Civil action No. 47 (1953) as establishing that no rights given to plaintiff's family could have extended beyond the death of Nena Kuang in 1970. Heirs of Likiaksa v. Heirs of Lonno, 3 FSM Intrm. 465, 468 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
There was not the kind of consistent assertion of ownership, as distinguished from right of use, that would allow the doctrine of adverse possession to apply in this case. Heirs of Likiaksa v. Heirs of Lonno, 3 FSM Intrm. 465, 468 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).
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EDWARD C. KING, Associate Justice:
This is an appeal from the Kosrae State Land Commission's determination of ownership made on July 21, 1985, holding that the heirs of Kilafwa Lonno are the owners of certain lands, called Limes, in Lelu, parcel No. 050-K-00. In a hearing held on September 28, 1988, the Court announced its decision in favor of the heirs of Kilafwa Lonno and explained its reasoning. This is a memorandum of the reasons for that decision.
The parties are in basic agreement about the relevant facts. Limes was formerly owned by Nena Kuang. In approximately 1926, he told Likiaksa, the father of appellants Shrew Likiaksa and Fred Likiaksa, that Likiaksa could use, and take fruit and produce from, Limes. Nena Kuang apparently did this because Likiaksa did not own much land himself.
Shrew and Fred Likiaksa also used Limes while Likiaksa was living, apparently under the authorization given to their father. For reasons not explained in the record, Nena Kuang permitted them to continue their use of
Limes even after Likiaksa died. In 1932, Shrew Likiaksa, as chief surveyor in Lelu during the Japanese administration, wrote the name of Fred, his older brother, as owner of Limes, which is shown as lot No. 353 on the Japanese map of 1932.
Before Nena Kuang died in 1970, Trust Territory Chief Justice E.P. Furber entered a judgment in a case called Sigrah v. Kuan,1 Trust Territory civil action No. 47. This judgment, entered with the consent of the parties, confirmed that Nena Kuang had only a life interest in Limes and "cannot transfer any rights in it which will last after his death." No member of the Likiaksa family was a party to the litigation but the court obviously felt it had before it all parties who had any claim of ownership of Limes. The judgment confirmed that Kilafwa Lonno, Nena Kuang's adopted son, was the owner of Limes, "subject to Nena Kuang's life interest."
Nevertheless, when Nena Kuang died, Shrew and Fred Likiaksa continued to use Limes despite the requests of Kilafwa Lonno that they not do so. Although no theory has been stated with clarity, the claim of the heirs of Shrew Likiaksa apparently is grounded on some combination of the authorization given by Nena Kuang to Likiaksa in about 1926 and the continued use of the land by Shrew Likiaksa, and then his heirs, to this day.
The commission rejected this argument and on July 21, 1985, determined that Kilafwa Lonno is the owner of Limes. For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Court affirms that decision.
Shrew Likiaksa's heirs argue that the land commission did not attach enough importance to the Japanese map associating Freddy Likiaksa with Limes. The Trust Territory High Court some 25 years ago concluded that appearance of a person's name on the official Japanese survey map of Kosrae is by no means conclusive evidence that the person was owner of the land indicated in 1932.
The Court takes judicial notice that in this survey emphasis was placed primarily on determination of boundaries, that the determinations as to who should be shown as owners were made largely in the field at the time the boundary lines were checked, and that there is no assurance either that all claims to ownership were considered or that there was any detailed investigation of the exact extent of or basis of any alleged owner's
interest in the land shown under his name. It appearsthat, in a number of instances, the person in whose name a piece of land was shown in the survey records did not know that that piece of land had been shown in his name until the records of the Japanese survey were made generally available to the people on Kusaie during the American administration. The showing of a given piece of land under a particular person's name in this survey is, therefore, at best only some evidence as to ownership or control. When such a person's rights are disputed, the court will consider other evidence as well, and determine the ownership on the basis of all of the evidence.
Jesse v. Ebream, 1 TTR 77, 78-79 (Pon. 1953) (Furber, C.J.)
Shrew Likiaksa has offered no reason to believe that Chief justice Furber's characterization of the 1932 Japanese survey of Kosrae was inaccurate. This Court therefore accepts that characterization and concludes that the land commission was not required as a matter of law to accept as true the survey map's designation of Fred Likiaksa as owner of Limes in 1932.
The commission's refusal to do so is particularly apt in light of Shrew Likiaksa's admission that Fred's name appeared on the survey simply because Shrew put it there.
There also appears no error in the significance given by the land commission to Chief Justice Furber's 1953 judgment in Sigrah v. Kuan. The heirs of Shrew Likiaksa trace their claim back to Nena Kuang, and admit that Shrew Likiaksa had no more than use rights in 1953. Thus, the land commission properly relied upon civil action 47 as establishing that no rights given theLikiaksa family in Limes could have extended beyond Nena Kuang's death in 1970.
Appellants' final claim is based upon the apparently undisputed fact that Shrew and Fred Likiaksa used Limes in some fashion, although not exclusively, for many years. The heirs of Shrew Likiaksa contend that this use, which even now they continue, establishes their ownership by adverse possession. Considering the snatches of testimony read and translated during oral argument, as well as the arguments made orally and in briefs, the Court concludes that there was not the kind of consistent assertion of ownership, as distinguished from a right of use, that would allow the doctrine of adverse possession to apply in this case.
In light of these considerations, the Court concludes that the land commission's determination of ownership was sound and fair. It is therefore affirmed.
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* Edward C. King is Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court, designated by Kosrae State Chief Justice Harry Skilling to serve as Associate Justice for the Kosrae State Court in this case.
1. Although the references in civil action 47 are to "Nena Kuan," all agree that this is the same person referred to as Nena Kuang in the papers filed in the instant case. For ease in reading and understanding, the surname Kuang is used throughout this opinion, even in references to, and quotations from, the judgment in Trust Territory civil action 47.