Article VI
 
The Judiciary

     Section 1.  The judicial power of the State is vested in the State Court and such inferior courts as may be created by law.

     Section 2.  The State Court is a court of record and the highest court of the State.  It consists of a Chief Justice and an Associate Justice.  Additional associate justices may be added by law.  Retired justices, justices pro tempore qualified by law, and sitting justices from other jurisdictions within the Federated States of Micronesia may serve at the request of the Chief Justice.  Each justice is a member of both the trial division and the appellate division, except that sessions of the trial division may be held by one justice.   No justice may sit with the appellate division in a case heard by him in the trial division.  At least three justices shall hear and decide appeals.  In case of vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice, or if he is ill, absent, or otherwise unable to serve, the most senior associate justice serves temporarily in his place.  The most senior associate has the longest tenure.
(Amended by 1995 Con. Con.)

     Section 3.  The Governor nominates and appoints the Chief Justice and associate justices with the advice and consent of three-fourths of the Senators. Justices hold their offices during good behavior for terms of six years.  Justices shall retire upon attaining the age of sixty-five years.

     Section 4.  Justices of the State Court are at least thirty-five years of age, are learned in the law, have never been convicted of a felony, and possess additional qualifications as may be prescribed by law.

     Section 5.  Compensation of justices of the State Court is prescribed by law. Compensation may not be increased or decreased during their terms of office, except by general law applying to all State Government employees.

     Section 6.  The State Court has original jurisdiction in all cases, except cases within the exclusive and original jurisdiction of inferior courts.  The State Court has jurisdiction to review all decisions of inferior courts.  Decisions of the Trial Division of the State Court may be appealed to the appellate division of the State Court, as shall be prescribed by law.  Decisions of the highest division of the State Court may be appealed to the appellate division of the Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia.  The courts of the State constitute a unified judicial system for operation and administration.
(Amended by 1995 Con. Con.)

Case annotations:  The Kosrae Constitution contemplates that justices of the FSM Supreme Court may decide cases which arise within Kosrae and fall under the original jurisdiction of the Kosrae State Court.  In addition, the Kosrae Constitution vests in the Kosrae Chief Justice the power to include the resources and justices of the FSM Supreme Court as resources of the Kosrae State Court, insofar as that is consistent with the duties of the FSM Supreme Court under the FSM Constitution.  Heirs of Mongkeya v. Heirs of Mackwelung, 3 FSM Intrm. 92, 97 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1987).

Plaintiff's possessory interest in land is sufficient to maintain standing to bring action for damages wrought when a road was built across the land.  Benjamin v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 508, 511 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

When a public officer is requested to perform a duty mandated by law which he feels would violate the constitution, he has standing to apply to the court for a declaratory judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional.  Siba v. Sigrah, 4 FSM Intrm. 329, 334 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1990).

     Section 7.  The State Court shall make and promulgate rules governing the administration of all courts.  The State Court shall make and promulgate rules governing practice and procedure in civil and criminal cases in all courts, which have the force and effect of law upon issuance by order of the Chief Justice; provided, the Legislature may establish or change rules by law.

Case annotations: Kosrae Evidence Rule 408, which renders evidence of settlement negotiations inadmissible in the trial, is based upon the court's commitment to encourage out of court settlements and includes offers made in the early stages of a dispute.  Nena v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 502, 505-06 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

In adopting the rules of evidence used by the United States federal courts, the Kosrae State Court also adopted the reasons for those rules and the case law which interprets them, insofar as those are appropriate for Kosrae.  Nena v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 502, 506 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

Pursuant to Kosrae Evidence Rule 408, all statements, including factual assertions, made during the settlement process are protected and inadmissible in court to prove liability or invalidity of a claim.  Nena v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 502, 506 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

Although Kosrae Evidence Rule 408 does not require the exclusion of factual evidence "otherwise discoverable" simply because it was presented during compromise negotiations, a statement made in a letter seeking to settle a dispute, which statement is clearly connected to and part of the settlement offer, is not otherwise discoverable.  Nena v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 502, 507 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

A request for admission as to the genuineness of a letter, excludable as evidence under Kosrae Evidence Rule 408 because it relates to settlement negotiations, is reasonably calculated to lead to evidence which could be admissible, and an objecting party may not obtain a protective order pursuant to Kosrae Civil Rule 26 to avoid responding to the request.Nena v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 502, 507 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

     Section 8.  The Chief Justice is the chief administrator of the State judicial system.  The administration of the State judicial system, including property, budget matters, is independent of the Legislature and Executive.  The Chief Justice shall submit an annual budget to the Governor.
(Amended by 1995 Con. Con.)

Case annotations:  A fundamental precept of judicial independence is that the judiciary must not be dependent upon other branches of government in order to carry out judicial responsibilities.  Art. VI, 8 of the Kosrae Constitution expressly confirms that the judicial branch is to control its own administration.  Heirs of Mongkeya v. Heirs of Mackwelung, 3 FSM Intrm. 92, 96 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1987).

     Section 9.  Court decisions shall be consistent with this Constitution, State traditions and customs, and the social and geographical configuration of the State.

Case annotations:  When the land commission concludes that a traditional gift of land, a "kewosr," has been made, but is unable to determine who made the gift, and when, and does not explain any details about the customary gift sufficient to explain how it has determined that a kewosr was made, the opinion does not reflect proper resolution of the legal issues or reasonable assessment of the evidence and therefore must be set aside.  Heirs of Mongkeya v. Heirs of Mackwelung, 3 FSM Intrm. 395, 402 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

When the land commission concludes that a traditional gift of land, a "kewosr," has been made, but is unable to determine who made the gift, and when, and does not explain any details about the customary gift sufficient to explain how it has determined that a kewosr was made, the opinion does not reflect proper resolution of the legal issues or pursuant to the Kosrae State Code, the court cannot consider tradition unless satisfactory evidence of it is introduced.  Kosrae Code 6.303.  Seymour v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 537, 540 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

Art. VI, 9 of the Kosrae State Constitution provides no basis for assuming that sovereign immunity is inherent in the Kosrae State Constitution, because sovereign immunity was a creation of Trust Territory common law.  Seymour v. Kosrae, 3 FSM Intrm. 537, 541 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1988).

Because farming of short term crops, such as sugar cane, on someone else's land is not uncommon in Kosrae, the fruits of such farming are considered the personal property of the person planting them.  Kosrae v. Tolenoa, 4 FSM Intrm. 201, 204 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1990).

A statutory cap on the amount and scope of recovery in a wrongful death action, lawfully enacted by the Kosrae legislature, does not interfere with traditional Kosraean or Micronesian compensation of a victim's family by the tortfeasor.  Tosie v. Healy-Tibbets Builders, Inc., 5 FSM Intrm. 358, 361 (Kos. 1992).

Until proven contrary to Kosraean custom the Kosrae State Court will entertain actions for negligence as tort liability for negligence is consistent with Micronesian culture. Nena v. Kosrae, 5 FSM Intrm. 417, 420 (Kos. S. Ct. Tr. 1990).
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