KOSRAE STATE COURT
TRIAL DIVISION
Cite as Jonas v. Paulino ,
9 FSM Intrm. 513 (Kosrae S. Ct. Tr. 2000)

[9 FSM Intrm. 513]

ARNEY JONAS,
Plaintiff-Appellee,

vs.

SUSANA PAULINO,
Defendant-Appellant.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 50-97

ORDER CONFIRMING TITLE

Aliksa B. Aliksa
Associate Justice
 
[9 FSM Intrm. 514]

Hearing:  December 14, 1999
Decided:  March 8, 2000
 
APPEARANCES:
For the Plaintiff-Appellee:           Charlton Timothy, trial counselor
                                                       P.O. Box 479
                                                       Lelu, Kosrae FM 96944

For the Defendant-Appellant:     Sasaki George, trial counselor
                                                       Micronesian Legal Services Corporation
                                                       P.O. Box 38
                                                       Lelu, Kosrae FM 96944

*    *    *    *

HEADNOTES
Property ) Land Commission
     One method to claim an interest in a parcel is to file a written claim with the Land Commission before the hearing.  A verbal claim is invalid.  Jonas v. Paulino, 9 FSM Intrm. 513, 516 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2000).

Constitutional Law ) Due Process ) Notice and Hearing
     When a person appeared as a witness at the formal hearing for a parcel and testified in support of another's claim to that parcel and did not make her own claim to the land, she was not entitled to notice of the Determination of Ownership for the parcel because she was not an "interested party."  Jonas v. Paulino, 9 FSM Intrm. 513, 516 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2000).

Constitutional Law ) Due Process ) Notice and Hearing
     When parties had no claims to the land at the time the title was determined they were not entitled to notice. Without a claim to the land in question there is no right to notice of a land commission proceeding or finding.  Jonas v. Paulino, 9 FSM Intrm. 513, 516 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2000).

Constitutional Law ) Case or Dispute ) Standing
     When, at the formal hearings, a person testified that her father had willed the parcel at issue to her brother and she did not submit any testimony in support of her own personal claim even though she was given an opportunity at the end of her testimony to give a statement about any "last word will" made by her father, neither she, nor her daughter, now claiming under her, had a right to notice of the parcel's Determination of Ownership because she was not an interested party, and her daughter cannot now claim to be an interested party.  Jonas v. Paulino, 9 FSM Intrm. 513, 516 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2000).

Property ) Certificate of Title
     A Certificate of Title is prima facie evidence of ownership and is conclusive upon a person who appeared as a witness at the formal hearing and those claiming under her.  Jonas v. Paulino, 9 FSM Intrm. 513, 516 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 2000).

*    *    *    *
 
[9 FSM Intrm. 515]

COURT'S OPINION
ALIKSA B. ALIKSA, Associate Justice:
     This matter is a trespass case involving parcel 030-M-15.  Through the answer filed in this case, Defendant has appealed the Determination of Ownership issued to the Plaintiff on parcel 030-M-15.  This issue of the Defendant's appeal of the Determination of Ownership was considered first by this Court, prior to consideration of the trespass claims made by the Plaintiff.

The appeal of the Land Commission's decision has been fully briefed by the parties and the hearing on the briefs was held on December 14, 1999.  Defendant Paulino is designated as Appellant in this Order.  Plaintiff Jonas is referenced as the Appellee.  This Order sets forth the Court's decision on the issue of Defendant-Appellant's appeal of the Land Commission's Determination of Ownership on parcel 030-M-15.

I.  Background.
     Appellant alleges several points of error made by the Land Commission. Appellant's arguments have all been considered by the Court.  The threshold issue in this appeal is whether the Appellant has standing to challenge the decision of the Land Commission on parcel 030-M-15.  We find that for the reasons set forth below, the Appellant does not have standing to challenge the decision of the Land Commission.  Therefore the appeal of the decision of the Kosrae State Land Commission must be dismissed.  Appellant's other claims are dependent upon her standing to appeal the Land Commission's decision and therefore must also fail.

     Appellant's claims are initially based upon the Land Commission's alleged failure to follow statutory requirements in giving notice of hearings to the Appellant. Appellant argues that she was an interested party to the Land Commission proceeding on parcel 030-M-15 and had informed the Land Commission in person of her interest prior to the formal hearing on parcel 030-M-15.  Appellant's claim was not entered into records of the Land Commission.  There is nothing in the certified record that indicates that Appellant appeared at the Land Commission and submitted her claim.  Appellant also claims that the Land Commission failed to give notice of the Determination of Ownership to the her, an interested party.  Thus, Appellant claims that the Land Commission did not conduct a fair proceeding.

     Appellee claims that adequate notice was given by the Land Commission to all claimants to the land.  Appellee argued that the Appellant's mother, Lelean Aliksa, did appear at the formal hearing for parcel 030-M-15 and did testify in support of one of the claimants, her brother Sawan Clarence.  Appellee argues that Appellant does not have standing to appeal the decision of the Land Commission because the Appellant's mother did not directly claim the land in question.  The Appellant's mother had appeared in the hearings as a witness for her brother, and not as a claimant to parcel 030-M-15.  Therefore, Appellant cannot now claim an interest in parcel 030-M-15 which was not made by her mother, Lelean Aliksa.

II.  Analysis.
     Appellant claims that she visited the Land Commission to submit her personal claim to parcel 030-M-15 before the designation and hearings began.  Appellant's brief does not contain evidence of whom Appellant spoke with at the Land Commission.  Appellant's brief does not contain evidence of the date that Appellant visited the Land Commission.  There is no written record of Appellant's claim in the certified records of the Land Commission.  Therefore we must conclude that if Appellant did

[9 FSM Intrm. 516]

submit her claim prior to the hearing on parcel 030-M-15, Appellant made her claim verbally to someone at the Land Commission.  We conclude, based upon the record, that Appellant's claim regarding parcel 030-M-15 to the Land Commission, was not made in writing.

     Kosrae State Code, Section 11.609(2) requires that a person claiming an interest in a parcel may do so by two methods.  One method to claim an interest in a parcel is to file a written claim with the Land Commission before the hearing. Appellant did not file a written claim with the Land Commission before the hearing.  Therefore, Appellant did not comply with statutory requirements of Section 11.609(2) and her verbal claim regarding parcel 030-M-15 is invalid.

     The Court has carefully reviewed the record in this matter, particularly the testimony of Appellant's mother, Lelean Aliksa.  Lelean Aliksa appeared as a witness at the formal hearing for parcel 030-M-15 and testified in support of Sawan Clarence's claim to that parcel.  Lelean Aliksa did not make her own claim to the land.  Therefore Lelean Aliksa was not entitled to notice of the Determination of Ownership for parcel 030-M-15 because she was not an "interested party."  Kos. S.C. 11.609(1).

     Where parties had no claims to the land at the time the title was determined they were not entitled to notice. Luzama v. Ponape Enterprises Co., 7 FSM Intrm. 40, 49 (App. 1995). Without a claim to the land in question there is no right to notice of a land commission proceeding or finding.  Nascence of Nett v. United States, 7 FSM Intrm. 581, 589 (App. 1996).  Here, Lelean Aliksa did not claim ownership to the parcel.  Instead, Lelean Aliksa testified in support of her brother's claim to parcel 030-M-15.  Lelean Aliksa was given an opportunity at the end of her testimony to give a statement about any "last word will" made by her father. Lelean testified that her father had willed the Malem lands, including the parcel at issue here, to her brother Sawan Clarence.  Lelean did not submit any testimony in support of her own personal claim at the formal hearings.  Therefore, neither Lelean, nor her daughter, the Appellant, who is now claiming under Lelean, had right to notice of the Determination of Ownership for parcel 030-M-15.  Lelean was not an interested party, therefore Appellant cannot now claim to be an interested party.

     The Certificate of Title is prima facie evidence of ownership.  Pursuant to the Certificate of Title entered on November 22, 1993, Plaintiff is a prima facie owner of parcel 030-M-15.  The Certificate of Title is conclusive upon Lelean Aliksa and those claiming under her, including the Appellant.  Kos. S.C. 11.616(1).

III.  Conclusion.
     The appeal of the Determination of Ownership made by the Kosrae State Land Commission regarding parcel 030-M-15 is dismissed.  The Certificate of Title for parcel 030-M-15, issued November 22, 1993 to Arney S. Jonas and Peter S. Jonas is affirmed.

     If the Plaintiff wishes to prosecute the trespass claim against the Defendant, Plaintiff shall file and serve a written request for trial within 30 days of this Order.  If the parties settle this matter, Plaintiff is to file a Notice of Dismissal.  Plaintiff's failure to file as ordered shall result in dismissal of this matter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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