THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as Moroni v. Secretary of Resources & Development ,
6 FSM Intrm. 137 (App. 1993)

[6 FSM Intrm. 137]

RONALD MORONI,
Appellant,

vs.

SECRETARY OF RESOURCES & DEVELOPMENT,
Appellee.

APPEAL CASE NO. P6-1993

OPINION

Argued and Decided:  July 14, 1993
Opinion Issued:  July 27, 1993

BEFORE:
     Hon. Richard H. Benson, Associate Justice, FSM Supreme Court
     Hon. Martin G. Yinug, Associate Justice, FSM Supreme Court
     Hon. Wanis R. Simina, Temporary Justice, FSM Supreme Court*

     *Associate Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court, Weno, Chuuk

APPEARANCES:
For the Appellant:     Ronald Moroni, in pro per
                                    j Office of Legal Counsel
                                    FSM Congress
                                    P.O. Box PS-126
                                    Palikir, Pohnpei  FM  96941

For the Appellee:      Douglas J. Juergens, Esq.
                                    Chief of Litigation
                                    Office of the FSM Attorney General
                                    P.O. Box PS-105
                                    Palikir, Pohnpei  FM  96941

*    *    *    *

HEADNOTES
Administrative Law ) Administrative Procedures Act
     The Administrative Procedures Act provides for judicial review of administrative acts and applies to all agency actions unless explicitly limited by a Congressional statute.  It mandates the court to "conduct a de novo trial of the matter," and to "decide all relevant questions of law and fact."  Moroni v. Secretary of Resources & Dev., 6 FSM Intrm. 137, 138 (App. 1993).

[6 FSM Intrm. 138]

Appeal and Certiorari
     Conducting trials de novo and making findings of fact is normally the province of the trial court and not of the appellate division which is generally unsuited for such inquiries.  Moroni v. Secretary of Resources & Dev., 6 FSM Intrm. 137, 138 (App. 1993).

Administrative Law ) Administrative Procedures Act
     Judicial review of agency actions must first be sought in the trial division unless there is a specific statute which provides otherwise.  Moroni v. Secretary of Resources & Dev., 6 FSM Intrm. 137, 138-39 (App. 1993).

Administrative Law ) Administrative Procedures Act
     The public policy against extended litigation does not mandate a direct appeal to the appellate division from an agency action since the statutory scheme unambiguously requires pursuit of remedies in the trial division first, and the trial division proceeding may resolve the matter.  Moroni v. Secretary of Resources & Dev., 6 FSM Intrm. 137, 139 (App. 1993).

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COURT'S OPINION
RICHARD H. BENSON, Associate Justice:
     Ronald Moroni appeals from a decision of the Secretary of Resources and Development denying his application for a foreign investment permit.  His appeal was filed directly in the appellate division, which procedure the government opposes.  At oral argument we granted the government's motion to remand this matter to the trial division.  We concluded that an appeal from an adverse administrative decision should properly be filed first in the trial division.  We now set forth our reasoning below.

     An applicant aggrieved by the final permit decision may appeal that decision to the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia.  32 F.S.M.C. 218. Which division is not explicitly specified, but the statute states:  "Such appeals shall be made under applicable rules of civil procedure."  Id.  The scope of the Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to civil cases in the trial division.  FSM Civ. R. 1.

     Furthermore, the Administrative Procedures Act provides for judicial review of administrative acts.  17 F.S.M.C. 111.  This provision applies to all agency actions unless explicitly limited by a Congressional statute.  17 F.S.M.C. 111(1); Olter v. National Election Comm'r, 3 FSM Intrm. 123, 129 (App. 1987).  It applies here.  This statutory provision mandates the court to "conduct a de novo trial of the matter," 17 F.S.M.C. 111(2), and to "decide all relevant questions of law and fact."  17 F.S.M.C. 111(3) (emphasis added).  Conducting trials and making findings of fact is normally the province of the trial court and not of the appellate division which is generally unsuited for such inquiries.

     Thus, the implication is clear that administrative appeals should be first filed in the trial division.  Even more illuminating is the next section which allows appeals to the appellate division from a final judgment of such matters in the trial division and mandates the standard of review in the appellate division.  17 F.S.M.C. 112. Read together they indicate that appeals from agency actions ought first to be filed in the trial division from where they may be appealed to the appellate division.  Statutes are to be interpreted so that they are internally consistent and consistent with

[6 FSM Intrm. 139]

other specific provisions and the general design of the act.  Bank of the FSM v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 5, 8 (Pon. 1993).

     The appellant argues that direct appeals from agency decisions have been allowed in the past.  This is true.  Olter was a direct appeal.  It was permitted because of its national importance and extreme time sensitivity.   Olter, 3 FSM Intrm. at 128 (involving election of one of the Congressmen from whom the President and Vice-President were to be chosen in less than a month).  Two other cases were filed first in the trial division but transferred to the appellate division by agreement and stipulation of the parties.  Semes v. FSM, 4 FSM Intrm. 66, 71 (App. 1989) (parties agreed no additional evidence need be submitted or considered); Carlos v. FSM, 4 FSM Intrm. 17, 22 (App. 1989) (consolidated with another case).  A direct appeal was allowed without addressing the issue (and without opposition) in Michelsen v. FSM, 5 FSM Intrm. 249 (App. 1989).  The most recent agency action appealed directly to the appellate division, Aten v. National Election Comm'r (II), 6 FSM Intrm. 74 (App. 1993) was heard pursuant to a statute, 9 F.S.M.C. 903, which authorizes direct appeal.

     There is no such statutory authorization covering this case and the parties have not stipulated or agreed to a direct appeal.  In fact, the government specifically opposes one.

     The appellant argues that the public policy against extended litigation should permit him a direct appeal.  The appellant's contention that requiring him to first pursue his remedies in the trial division will result in extended litigation is purely speculative.  The trial division proceeding may resolve the matter.  Furthermore, there is no ambiguity here that needs resolution by resort to public policy.

     The statutory scheme is clear.  Judicial review of agency actions must first be sought in the trial division unless there is a specific statute which provides otherwise.  We therefore remand this matter to the trial division.

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