THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as FSM v. M. T. HL Achiever (I) ,
7 FSM Intrm. 221 (Chuuk 1995)
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA,
M.T. HL ACHIEVER, a Foreign Fuel Tanker
and SKICO LIMITED, a Korean Entity,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1995-1012
Richard H. Benson
Hearing: August 30, 1995
Decided: August 30, 1995
For the Plaintiff: Carole Rafferty, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Office of the FSM Attorney General
P.O. Box PS-105
Palikir, Pohnpei FM 96941
For the Defendant: Kathleen B. Alvarado, Esq.
(M.T. HL Achiever) Law Offices of R. Barrie Michelsen
P.O. Box 1450
Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
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Admiralty; Civil Procedure ) Venue
In an admiralty and maritime case for the in rem forfeiture of a vessel, jurisdiction and venue are
so interrelated that the government, or its agents, may not move a defendant vessel from the state in which it was arrested where the FSM admiralty venue statute does not anticipate transfer even though the civil rules allow improper venue to be raised as a defense or to be waived. It is unclear what the result of such a move would be. FSM v. M.T. HL Achiever (I), 7 FSM Intrm. 221, 222-23 (Chk. 1995).
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RICHARD H. BENSON, Associate Justice:
This case came before me on August 30, 1995 pursuant to notice on the motion of the FSM that the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) imposed on August 25, 1995 and entered August 28, 1995 be set aside.
The TRO prohibited the FSM from moving the defendant vessel from Chuuk to Pohnpei. Since the arrest within the Chuuk Lagoon in July, the FSM surveillance vessel has been tied to the defendant in order to fulfill the obligation of the national police to retain the defendant in its custody. The FSM wished to move the defendant vessel to Pohnpei in order to reduce shipkeepers' expense and to enable needed repairs to be made to the surveillance vessel.
There is uncontested testimony as to the need for repairs on the FSS Micronesia. There was also testimony showing that alternative methods of maintaining custody were available to the national police. This order does not at all affect the power of the Federated States of Micronesia to move the FSS Micronesia.
I have carefully considered the testimony, the written and oral arguments relative to the motion and have concluded that the motion to set aside should be granted. A principal reason for this is the failure of the vessel to establish that irreparable harm will result to it if the vessel is moved.
Considering the opposition of the FSM as a request for permission from the court to move the vessel, such request is denied.
My reason follows: in this admiralty and maritime case for the in rem forfeiture of the defendant vessel, jurisdiction and venue are so interrelated, and the effect of the proposed move on each is entirely unclear from the presentation before me. See United States v. One Cessna Model 310 R Aircraft, etc., 432 F. Supp. 364 (D.S.C. 1977) noted in footnote 1 at 28 U.S.C.S. § 1395 (1988) as follows,
In action by government pursuant to 21 USCS § 881 seeking forfeiture of defendant aircraft for allegedly having been used for transportation of marijuana, venue provisions of 28 USCS § 1395 control territorial jurisdiction in that they represent effective statutory limitation on District Court's power to hear matter in hand; in this very limited sense, 28 USCS § 1395 is jurisdictional in nature, in that, in in rem proceedings under 28 USCS 1355, section 1395 alone determines where forfeiture proceeding may be properly brought.
Although statutory authority exists in the United States for the transfer of cases from one district or division to another, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), it is "doubtful" that such authority extends to in rem proceedings. 2 Am. Jur. 2d Admiralty § 173, at 823 n.17 (1962). In the FSM the admiralty venue statute does not anticipate transfer. 6 F.S.M.C. 302. Thus the possibility of transfer, from what has
been shown, does not exist. (That improper venue can be raised as a defense and can be waived, Rule 12(b) and (h) of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure, has no bearing on the problem before me and it is doubtful that it applies at all to proceedings in rem.)
It is therefore ordered
1. that the Temporary Restraining Order is vacated and set aside, and
2. that the Federated States of Micronesia, or its agents, are not to move the defendant vessel from Chuuk State without an order of the court.
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