FSM SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as Chuuk v. Secretary of Finance ,
9 FSM Intrm. 73 (Ponape 1999)

[9 FSM Intrm. 73]

STATE OF CHUUK, STATE OF KOSRAE,
STATE OF POHNPEI and STATE OF YAP,
Plaintiffs,

vs.

SECRETARY OF DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE and
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA,
Defendants.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 1995-085

ORDER

Andon L. Amaraich
Chief Justice

Decided:  March 11, 1999

APPEARANCES:
For the Plaintiffs:          Andrea S. Hillyer, Esq.
                                       P.O. Drawer D
                                       Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941

For the Defendants:     Elizabeth M. McCormick, Esq.
                                       Assistant Attorney General
                                       Department of Justice
                                       P.O. Box PS-105
                                       Palikir, Pohnpei FM 96941

*    *    *    *

[9 FSM Intrm. 74]

HEADNOTES
Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute
     Placement of proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot does not transform a claim into a non-justiciable political question.  It does not constitute a commitment of the issue to any of the branches of government.  Chuuk v. Secretary of Finance, 9 FSM Intrm. 73, 74-75 (Pon. 1999).

Constitutional Law ) Interpretation
     When the court has analyzed the present meaning of the Constitution by recognized judicial standards of constitutional interpretation as long as the present language remains the court's conclusions carry full force and effect.  Chuuk v. Secretary of Finance, 9 FSM Intrm. 73, 75 (Pon. 1999).

*    *    *    *

COURT'S OPINION
ANDON L. AMARAICH, Chief Justice:
     This matter comes before the Court on defendants' Motion to Abstain from Further Review of Political Questions.

     On July 17, 1998, the Court granted defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed plaintiffs' Complaint with prejudice.  [Chuuk v. Secretary of Finance, 8 FSM Intrm. 353 (Pon. 1998).]  On July 27, 1998, plaintiffs filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure.  On August 24, 1998, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment pursuant to Rule 60 of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure.  Oral argument on plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment and plaintiffs' Motion for Relief from Judgment took place on Tuesday, February 2, 1999, at 10:00 a.m., at the National Judicial Building in Palikir, Pohnpei.  This Court has yet to issue a ruling on plaintiffs' July 27, 1998 motion.

     On February 1, 1999, the defendants filed their Motion to Abstain from Further Review of Political Questions.  Defendants argue that this Court must abstain from further review of plaintiffs' claim that the living resources in the EEZ are the property of the four states because it raises a non-justiciable political question.  The basis for defendants' motion is the potential placement of three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot for the July, 1999 special congressional election.

     On February 11, 1999, plaintiffs filed an Opposition to FSM Motion to Abstain from Further Review.  Plaintiffs contend that defendants' motion is without merit because the doctrine was not designed to prevent a court from adjudicating a dispute properly presented to it, even if efforts may be underway to modify the law applicable to that dispute.

     In an order signed and entered on August 30, 1996, this Court denied a motion by defendants to dismiss the plaintiffs' claimed entitlement to fishing license fee revenues, finding that it did not present a political question.  [Chuuk v. Secretary of Finance, 7 FSM Intrm. 563 (Pon. 1996).]  This Court will revisit the issue, but only to determine whether the potential placement of the three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot for the July, 1999 special election will transform the issue into a non-justiciable political question.

     The potential placement of the three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot for the July, 1999 special election does not transform plaintiffs' claim that the living resources in the EEZ are

[9 FSM Intrm. 75]

the property of the four states into a non-justiciable political question.  Placing the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot does not constitute a commitment of the issue to any of the branches of government.  Further, labeling an issue a political question simply because it is placed on the ballot may encourage placing an issue on the ballot solely to avoid resolution of a justiciable issue.

     In claiming that the living resources in the EEZ are the property of the four states, plaintiffs asked this Court to and the Court did analyze the present meaning of the FSM Constitution.  This analysis was governed by recognized judicial standards of constitutional interpretation.  The analysis and the interpretation did not involve a non-justiciable political issue.  If the Constitution is amended, this Court's findings are likely moot.  However, if the amendments fail, the present language of the Constitution remains, and the findings by this Court carry full force and effect.

Conclusion
     This Court finds that the potential placement of the three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot for the July, 1999 special election does not transform plaintiffs' claim that the living resources in the EEZ are the property of the four states into a non-justiciable political question.  Defendants' Motion to Abstain from Further Review of Political Questions is denied.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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