CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT
APPELLATE DIVISION
Cite as William v. Muritok,
9 FSM Intrm. 34 (Chuuk. S. Ct. App. 1999)

[9 FSM Intrm. 34]

SANPHY WILLIAM et al.,
Appellants,

vs.

APOLONIA MURITOK et al.,
Appellees.

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5-97

OPINION

Argued:  December 10, 1998
Decided:  February 1, 1999

BEFORE:
Hon. Machime O'Sonis, Associate Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court, presiding
Hon. Yoster Carl, Temporary Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court*
Hon. Ready Johnny, Temporary Justice, Chuuk State Supreme Court**

*Associate Justice, Pohnpei Supreme Court, Kolonia, Pohnpei
**FSM Public Defender, Weno, Chuuk

APPEARANCES:
For the Appellants:     Midasy O. Aisek, Esq.
                                      Micronesian Legal Services Corporation
                                      P.O. Box D
                                      Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

For the Appellees:      Julio Akapito, trial counselor
                                      P.O. Box EX
                                      Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

*    *    *    *

HEADNOTES
Appeal and Certiorari ) Standard of Review
     When appellants' claim to tidelands has no customary basis and they never had any rights to it, and the only issues raised on appeal, whether the tidelands in question could be transferred without the consent of all the lineage's adult members and whether the trial court's decision allowed American citizens to become owners of Chuukese tidelands, are not material and are hypothetical as to the appellants, the trial court will be affirmed.  William v. Muritok, 9 FSM Intrm. 34, 35 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1999).

[9 FSM Intrm. 35]

Appeal and Certiorari ) Standard of Review
     When the trial court has carefully observed the demeanor of all the witnesses, the trial court will not be put in error unless its findings of fact are clearly erroneous.  William v. Muritok, 9 FSM Intrm. 34, 36 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1999).

*    *    *    *

COURT'S OPINION
MACHIME O'SONIS, Associate Justice:
     This is an appeal from a judgment of the Chuuk State Supreme Court Trial Division in an action arising out of a dispute over ownership of tidelands known as Winipi in Sapeta, Fefan Island, Chuuk State.

     The original complaint was filed on April 21, 1992 and Appellants filed a motion to intervene on July 23, 1993.  Thereafter, this first case was dismissed without prejudice on March 1, 1994.  A second suit was filed on March 21, 1994, naming the Appellants as Defendants.  Judgment in this case was entered on March 25, 1995, in favor of the Appellees, hence this appeal.

     During oral argument and in their briefs, the parties address but two issues. The Appellants claim that the Trial Court committed reversible error by ruling, in substance, that the tidelands in question could be transferred without the consent of all the adult members of the lineage.  Second, the Appellants contend that the Trial Court erred in allowing American citizens to become owners of Chuukese tidelands.

     This Court has reviewed the entire transcript of testimony in the Trial Court and the record on appeal.  Based on this review, it is indicated that the Appellant raises issues on appeal that are not material to a decision of this Court as to whether the judgment of the Trial Court is due to be affirmed or reversed in so far as the rights of Appellants are concerned.  In other words, the judgment of the Trial Court that the Appellants have no interest in the tidelands in question, is unaffected by the Trial Court's rulings relative to consent of adult members of a lineage or the ownership of FSM land by Americans, as those issues effect the rights of Appellants.

     The judgment of the Trial Court refers to the Appellant, Sanphy William, as the "second defendant."  Excerpts from the judgment of the Trial Court state, after referring to the "second defendant" that:

the second defendant herein his claim over a portion of Winipi tideland has no customary basis . . . . Basically, the second defendant, Sanphy William fails to prove to this Court that a portion of the Winipi tideland has been given to him (Sanphy William) or his brothers or sisters. . .If there has been a portion of said tideland has been expressly given to the second defendant, it would have been presented through the evidence, but it was not . . . .  Having gone over the testimonies of the second defendant's witnesses, none of them ever testified that Pio Modinimwar nor Iowana ever given away their portion of Winipi tideland to them (second defendant). [sic]

     The judgment of the Trial Court is clear to the conclusion that the Appellant's never had any rights to the land in question.  Therefore, the issues raised by Appellants on this appeal are moot or hypothetical as to them.  See 5 Am. Jur. 2d Appeal and Error 706 (1962).

[9 FSM Intrm. 36]

     The Trial Court correctly stated that it "has carefully observed the demeanor of all the witnesses."  Having done so, the Trial Court will not be put in error unless its findings of fact are "clearly erroneous."  See Emilios v. Setile, 6 FSM Intrm. 558, 560, 1 CSR 17, 18 (Chk. S. Ct. App. 1994)

     We are not prepared to view the Trial Court's findings of fact as "clearly erroneous," especially in view of the Appellants standing to bring this appeal.

     The decision of the Trial Division is affirmed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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