ARTICLE 10
 
Judiciary

     Section 1.  Judicial Power.
     The judicial power of Pohnpei is vested in the Pohnpei Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as may be established by law.

Case annotations:     Judicial Powers

It is within the special province and duty of the courts, and the courts alone, to say what the law is and to determine whether a statute or ordinance is constitutional.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 8-9 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

Under the system of constitutional government of the State of Pohnpei, among the most important functions entrusted to the judiciary are the duty to interpret the State's Constitution and the closely connected duty to determine whether or not laws and acts of the state legislature are contrary to the State Constitution.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 10 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

When called on to review and control the acts of an officer or a coordinate branch of the government, the court should proceed with extreme caution, and the right to exercise the power must be manifestly clear.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 10 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

The court may, in the interest of justice, make the application of its decision prospective where the court is overruling a previous decision or declaring a statute unconstitutional and the present ruling does not prejudice those who might have relied on such ruling or on such statute.  Paulus v. Pohnpei, 3 FSM Intrm. 208, 222 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1987).

Separation of Powers

A characteristic feature, and one of the cardinal and fundamental principles of the Pohnpei State Constitutional system, is that the governmental powers are divided among the three departments of this government, the legislative, executive, and judicial, and that each of these is separate from the others.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 9 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

Interpretation

When confronted with an issue of first instance, the Pohnpei Supreme Court may look beyond prior state experience for guidance, including looking towards the common law and United States precedents.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 10 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

In interpreting the Constitution, Pohnpeian and English versions must be construed together in harmony to determine the intent of the Constitutional Convention on any subject.  Pohnpei v. Hawk, 3 FSM Intrm. 17, 22-23 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

The words of the Pohnpei Constitution are words in common use and are to be understood according to their ordinary meaning.  Panuelo v. Pohnpei, 3 FSM Intrm. 76, 81 (Pon. S. Ct. App. 1987).

A constitutional provision is self-executing when no legislation is required to bring it into effect.  Panuelo v. Pohnpei, 3 FSM Intrm. 76, 82 (Pon. S. Ct. App. 1987).

     Section 2.  Inferior Courts and Adjudicatory Bodies.
     Inferior courts and adjudicatory bodies may be established by statute.  They shall have such original jurisdiction, concurrent with the Pohnpei Supreme Court, as may be established by statute.  All judges and members of adjudicatory bodies shall be nominated by the Governor with approval by affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Legislature, without regard to vacancies.

     Section 3.  Pohnpei Supreme Court: Membership.
     (1)     The Pohnpei Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and not more than four associate justices who shall be nominated by the Governor with the approval by affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Legislature, without regard to vacancies.

     (2)     The Legislature shall provide by statute for the service of temporary justices.  Their nominations shall also be subject to the approval of the Legislature in the same manner as the other justices.

     Section 4.  Pohnpei Supreme Court: Jurisdiction.
     (1)     The Pohnpei Supreme Court is a court of record and is the highest court of Pohnpei.

     (2)     The trial division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases within the jurisdiction of Pohnpei and appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of all inferior courts and adjudicatory bodies.

     (3)     The appellate division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over all matters in the trial division.

     (4)     The right to a new trial and to appeal decisions of inferior courts and adjudicatory bodies to the Pohnpei Supreme Court shall be preserved.

     (5)     No appeal on any matter relating to the Constitution, Pohnpei law, customs and traditions may be made to any other court, except the Pohnpei Supreme Court.

Case annotations:  The Pohnpei State Supreme Court may look to Pohnpeian customs and concepts of justice when there are no statutes governing the subject matter, but it may also draw from common law concepts when they are appropriate.  Koike v. Ponape Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57, 64 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

     Section 5.  Pohnpei Supreme Court: Divisions.
     (1)     Unless otherwise provided by law, each Pohnpei Supreme Court justice shall be a member of the trial division and the appellate division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court.  A justice who has heard a case in the trial division may not participate in the decision of the case in the appellate division.

     (2)     A single justice may hear a case in the trial division.  No fewer than three justices shall hear and decide cases in the appellate division.  A single justice may make interlocutory appellate orders, subject to review by a full appellate panel of justices hearing the appeal.

     Section 6.  Pohnpei Supreme Court: Qualification.
     No person is eligible to serve as a justice of the Pohnpei Supreme Court unless he is at least thirty-five years of age.  A person convicted of a felony is ineligible to serve.

     Section 7.  Pohnpei Supreme Court: Trial.
     A justice of the Pohnpei Supreme Court shall serve for a term of twelve years provided that he may continue to serve until a successor who has been nominated is confirmed.  A justice may be reappointed.

     Section 8.  Compensation.
     Compensation of all justices, judges, and members of the adjudicatory bodies shall be prescribed by law.  Compensation may not be diminished during their terms of office, except by general law and in the same proportion applying to all officers and employees of the Government of Pohnpei.

     Section 9.  Administration.
     The Chief Justice is the administrative head of the judicial system of Pohnpei. The administration of the Pohnpei judicial system, including personnel, property, finance, and budget matters, is independent of the legislative and executive branches of the Government of Pohnpei.  The Chief Justice shall be responsible for preparation of the annual budget of the Judiciary, which shall be submitted to the Legislature through the Governor.  The Governor may submit his comments on the Judiciary budget, but he may not revise it or reduce it.

     Section 10.  Rules.
     The Pohnpei Supreme Court shall have the authority to promulgate or to amend its rules of procedure and rules of conduct of the Judiciary and its employees, and rules governing the property of the Judiciary.  Such rules shall have the effect of law, and may be amended by statute.

     Section 11.  Judicial Policy.
     The decisions of all courts and adjudicatory bodies shall be consistent with this Constitution and the concepts of justice of the people of Pohnpei.

Case annotations:  When confronted with an issue of first instance, the Pohnpei Supreme Court may look beyond prior state experience for guidance, including looking towards the common law and United States precedents.  People of Kapingamarangi v. Pohnpei Legislature, 3 FSM Intrm. 5, 10 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

Judicial decisions, including interpretations of rules of civil procedure, should be consistent with the Constitution and with the Pohnpeian concept of justice.  Hadley v. Board of Trustees, 3 FSM Intrm. 14, 16 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1985).

Customary law takes precedence over the common law, according to Pon. Const. art. 5, 1; 1 T.T.C. 103; 1 F.S.M.C. 203.  Phillip v. Aldis, 3 FSM Intrm. 33, 38 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1987).

The Pohnpeian custom of "Ke pwurohng omw mwur," according to which one reaps the fruit of one's misdeed, requires the lessor to bear the consequences of his failure to repossess the rented vehicle from the lessee.  Phillip v. Aldis, 3 FSM Intrm. 33, 38 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1987).

The Pohnpei State Supreme Court may look to Pohnpeian customs and concepts of justice when there are no statutes governing the subject matter, but it may also draw from common law concepts when they are appropriate.  Koike v. Ponape Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57, 64 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

The common Pohnpeian custom of assisting a person in need should not be dispensed with in order to allow the defense of contributory negligence or assumption of risk to be raised.Koike v. Ponape Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57, 67 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

According to the Pohnpeian view of civil wrongs, if one damages another's property, he must repair or replace it; if one injures another person, he must apologize and provide assistance to the injured person and his family; if one kills another person, he must provide the assistance that the victim would have provided and may have to offer another person to take the place of victim in his family.  Koike v. Ponape Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57, 70-71 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

The Pohnpei Supreme Court declines to adopt the "collateral source" rule, according to which alternative sources of income available to a victim are not allowed to be deducted from the amount the negligent party owes, because it does not want to discourage customary forms of family restitution.  Koike v. Ponape Rock Products, Inc., 3 FSM Intrm. 57, 74 (Pon. S. Ct. Tr. 1986).

The state cannot raise as a defense a plaintiff's failure to comply with its administrative procedures for claims when denial of opportunity for administrative relief is one of the injuries the plaintiff complains of.  Ponape Constr. Co. v. Pohnpei, 6 FSM Intrm. 114, 119-20 (Pon. 1993).

Where a state law contains potentially conflicting provisions regarding administrative procedures claimants must follow, the decision of a claimant to follow one provision but not the other so as to preserve her right to bring suit on a claim is reasonable and does not constitute a basis for dismissing the action.  Abraham v. Lusangulira, 6 FSM Intrm. 423, 425-26 (Pon. 1994).

It is incumbent on parties to follow administrative procedures concerning their disputes as designated by applicable state law before coming to court unless and until the state law is judged invalid.  Abraham v. Lusangulira, 6 FSM Intrm. 423, 426 (Pon. 1994).