POHNPEI SUPREME COURT
Esteban Santiago,Petring Albert, and 614 Registered Voters of Madolenihmw,
Honorable Robert Silbanuz, Election Chairman, and
Honorable Pelerino Mudong, Meninkeder Lapalap of Madolenihmw Municipality,
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7-97 (MKP No. 59-97)
ORDER ACCEPTING REFERRAL
This action commenced upon request of the Madolenihmw Municipal Court in its Civil Action No. 59-97. We placed the matter initially in the Appellate Division of this Court pursuant to Section 16-6 of State Law No. 3L-99-95, the Pohnpei Judiciary Act of 1995, later to determine jurisdiction, and in which Division of this Court the matter should be treated if jurisdiction is found.
We gave opportunity to parties to brief the question of jurisdiction and venue. They have each briefed and argued.
S.L: No. 3L-99-95 provides two avenues for cases from the local courts to reach the Pohnpei Supreme Court. Section 15-1 (1) of the state reads in part,
"Section 15-1. Certification of cases and issues. The courts of this State, other than the Pohnpei Supreme Court, upon their own mction, and shall, upon order of the Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court or the motion of any party to an action pending before it, certify to the Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court any issue of law or fact in any case pending before it. The Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court may decide the entire case or such issues as it deems appropriate, or remand the matter to the lower court for further hearing. . ."
The choice of the phrase "The courts of this State," does not isolate a particular level of court that exists in this State. In certain section of the statute, the "lower court" refers to lower State Courts, and "local court" relates to court of the local government. Here however, the statute does not confine court to any one of those known to our nomenclature. In our view therefore, the phrase imports any court that exists in the State of Pohnpei, including the municipal courts or local courts that certify, an issue of law or fact, or a cause. In such instance, the issue or cause goes to the Trial Division of this Court.
The other avenue is found in Section 16-6 of S.L. No. 3L-99-95, which reads in part,
"Section 16-6. Appellate jurisdiction. The Appellate Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction over all causes of action brought in the Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court and in matters referred to it by the FSM Supreme Court and the courts of the local jurisdictions of Pohnpei. . ."
The language here gives appellate jurisdiction to the Appellate Division of this Court in matters referred to the appellate court by the FSM Supreme Court and the local courts. In regard to causes from the FSM Supreme Court and local courts, the section does not confine specifically to "appeals" but speaks of causes "referred" to the Appellate Division by the FSM Supreme Court or local courts. It follows, in our view that the provision intends to include matters which are original in form and special in nature, such as matters which require immediate resolution, to be placed in the Appellate Division of this Court in order to avoid the ordinarily slow processes of appeal. For example, with respect to the local courts, a cause may commence in the trial division of that court which in the view of the court, requires immediate resolution, and that court views that it may refer it to the Pohnpei Supreme Court which has concurrent jurisdiction, but to certify the cause will result in the matter to be brought at first instance in the Trial Division of this Court pursuant to Section 15-1 of S.L. No. 3L-99-95. That court would know that to try the cause in its trial division would result in an appeal to the appellate division of that court, followed by still another appeal to the Appellate Division of this Court under Section16-6. The process is time-consuming and yet, the need to determine the cause is immediate. Thus, Section 16-6 permits the trial division of the local court, without going through the appeal process, to refer the cause directly to the Appellate Division of this Court for expeditious determination.
MKP No. 59-97 is a classic illustration of the type of causes that Section 16-6 permits referral to the Appellate Division of this Court. The Election Chairman declared the official result of the November 11, 1997 election on November 21, 1997. He has either denied or not acted upon petitions for recount or run-off. The petitioners have been advised to file their claims in other proper forum. Petitioner Santiago has therefore brought this cause pursuant to Section 11-2 of ML-4M-102-97, the Madolenihmw Election Law of 1996. The new Madolenihmw government will be seated on the second Monday of January 1998 pursuant, to Article VIII, Section 7, and Article IX, Section 9 of the Madolenihmw Constitution. The only member of the Madolenihmw Municipal Court, the Chief Justice, has expressed disqualification on account of his familial relation to parties in the case. The Chief Justice was required to travel to the United States for medical treatment. To await the process of appointment of a member of that court, and proceed in the cause under the normal law and procedure will not meet the timing of the Constitution and applicable ordinances of the municipality. So that, the most ideal action to pursue was to invoke Section 16-6 of State Law No. 3L-99-95 - refer MKP No. 59-97 to the Appellate Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court. This will permit the parties to bring the issues before this Court in a more expeditious manner. In view of the factors discussed above, we find that this Court has jurisdiction to determine this cause. This matter will therefore be dealt with and determined in the Appellate Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court.
Recognizing that this cause comes in its original form, parties are to take caution that this Court may have to invoke Rule 19 to modify the Court's Appellate Rules where circumstances dictate.
It is Ordered this 12th day of December, 1997.
Henry P. Biza
Ioanis S. Kanichy
Judah C. Johnny