GCO 1982-1
(As Amended by 1985-8)

February 24, 1982


     1.  This court is authorized by the Federated States of Micronesia National Judiciary Act, Public Law No. 1-31, Section 12, to appoint assessors to advise about local law or custom.  The Section says:

Section 12.  Assessors.  Any Justice of the Supreme Court may appoint one or more assessors to advise him at the trial of any case with respect to local law or custom or such other matters requiring specialized knowledge.  All such advice shall be of record and the assessors shall be subject to examination and cross-examination by any party.

Standing List of Certified Assessors

     2.  The National Justice Ombudsman of this court is hereby authorized and instructed to develop procedures to select individuals whose name shall be included on a standing list of persons certified and willing to serve as assessors in accordance with the provisions of Section 12 of the Public Law 1-31.

     3.  The procedures for compiling the list of certified assessors shall be developed by the National Justice Ombudsman in consultation with customary and traditional leaders and other persons knowledgeable about local law or custom.  The National Justice Ombudsman shall take particular care to recognize local variances in custom from municipality to municipality, from island to island, from state to state and among particular ethnic groups within single geographical communities, as well as among particular ethnic groups depending upon whether they live within their home islands or on another island, and shall attempt to assure that the standing list includes assessors certified as knowledgeable about the custom of each such particular community.

Appointment For Specific Cases

     4.  Assessors may be appointed for specific civil or criminal litigation upon the court's own motion or upon motion of a party.  In so far as practicable, the following procedures will be followed.

a.  When the court determines on its own motion to appoint one or more assessors, the court shall issue a written order to that effect indicating those areas of local or custom with respect to which the court will be seeking advice, and identifying the island group, municipality, or other ethnic
group whose law or custom is thought to be pertinent and specifying the identity of the proposed assessor(s), if any.  A motion by any party seeking appointment of assessors shall be made as a pre-trial motion, pursuant to Rule 12 and 45 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure in criminal proceedings, and shall also contain the information referred to in the preceding sentence.

b.  In its discretion, the court may hold a hearing to determine the desirability of appointing assessor(s).  Purposes of such a hearing could be, among other things, to determine whether there is any dispute as to the extent and nature of local law or custom, or as to the ethnic group whose local law or custom should be considered, or to determine the identity of the person(s) to be designated to serve.

Service By an Assessor

     5.  An assessor appointed by the court pursuant to this rule and FSM Public Law No. 1-31 shall attend the entire trial of the litigation for which that assessor has been appointed.

     6.  Any assessor appointed may be called upon to comment or testify at any time during the proceedings at the discretion of the court.  However, the normal practice will be that assessors will be consulted by the court and parties at the following times.

a.  At the completion of the opening statements by counsel, assessors may comment as to the issues of local law and custom which they believe are pertinent to the matters discussed by counsel in their opening statements, and may suggest particular types of information which they feel may be relevant and should be adduced during the trial.

b.  Immediately prior to the close of each party's case, and before the party's closing statement, assessors shall be given an opportunity to comment concerning local law and custom as applied to the evidence.

     7.  An assessor shall be deemed to be the court's expert witness and shall be considered an officer of the court.  Although examination and cross-examination will be permitted, each assessor is to be treated with respect and courtesy by counsel and the parties.

     8.  Each assessor shall be paid at the rate of $10.00 per day of service and shall be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses incurred in traveling to and from the court.  Amount paid to assessors shall be taxable as court costs.
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