HOME
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as Koike v. Ponape Rock Products Company, INC. et al.,
1 FSM Intrm. 496

[1 FSM Intrm. 496]
 
TRIAL DIVISION-STATE OF PONAPE

FELIX KOIKE and SUSA KOIKE,
Plaintiffs,

vs.

PONAPE ROCK PRODUCTS COMPANY, INC., et al.,
Defendants.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 7-1983

WELERIANO SHAM and SABINA SHAM,
Plaintiffs,

vs.

PONAPE ROCK PRODUCTS
COMPANY INC., JACK ADAMS
PONAPE AGRICULTURE AND
TRADE SCHOOL and the PONAPE
STATE GOVERNMENT,
Defendants.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 51-83

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF
LEO ETSCHEIT

CIVIL ACTION NO. 66-80

OPINION

Before Edward C. King
Chief Justice
Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941
June 19, 1984

[1 FSM Intrm. 497]
 
APPEARANCES:
     (CIVIL ACTION NO. 7-1983)

     For Plaintiff Koike:               Robert L. Keogh
                                                    Attorney-at-Law
                                                    P.O. Box GZ
                                                    Agana, Guam 96910

     For Defendants:
     Ponape Rock Products:      Martin P. Mix
     Jack Adams                         Trial Counselor
                                                    P.O. Box 143
                                                    Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941

       Ponape Agriculture and
       Trade School:                     Paul Lawlor
                                                    Attorney-at-Law
                                                    10th Floor, Pacific News Bldg.,
                                                    Agana, Guam 96910

     Ponape State Government:   Edwin Rauzi
                                                       Special Counsel for State Attorney
                                                       Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941

     (CIVIL ACTION NO. 51-83)     Same appearances as in Civil Action No. 7-1983)

     (CIVIL ACTION NO. 66-80)

     For temporary Adminis-:         Robert L. Keogh
     trator                                          Attorney-at-Law
                                                        P.O. Box GZ
               Agana, Guam 96941

     For the State of Ponape:        Edwin Rauzi
                                                       Special Counsel for State Attorney
                                                       Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941

[1 FSM Intrm. 498]

OPINION AND ORDER
     Plaintiffs Felix and Susa Koike in former Trust Territory High Court Civil Action No. 7-83, Plaintiffs Weleriano Sham and Sabina Sham in former Trust Territory High Court Civil Action No. 51-83, and Temporary Administrator, Robert Etscheit, of the Estate of Leo Etscheit, Deceased, for Trust Territory High Court Civil Action No. 66-80, all have taken steps seeking transfer of those cases to this Court.  In each case, the movants contend that diversity of citizenship exists among the parties so that the case falls within the jurisdiction of this Court under Article XI, 6(b) of the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Procedural Background
     The procedures followed by movants in each case were substantially similar. Separate motions, supported by memoranda of Points and authorities, were filed concurrently with this Court and the Trust Territory High Court.

     The motions filed with the Trust Territory High Court were motions to transfer jurisdiction requesting transfer of each case from the High Court to this Court. The response of the High Court in each case was to transfer the case to the newly formed Ponape State Court.  This was done without issuance of an opinion or explanation of any kind by the High Court.

[1 FSM Intrm. 499]

     The movants in each case thereupon asked this Court to rule upon the motions filed here.  Each motion is styled a "Motion to Assume Jurisdiction."  In each instance, the motion is unaccompanied by a complaint or other document initiating the action as a case before this Court.

Legal Analysis
     Having reviewed the motions and supporting memoranda, and having heard oral argument in all three cases, it appears that the issue sought to be raised in each case, that is, the proper court to exercise jurisdiction, is a serious and substantial question requiring interpretation of the Constitution.

     However, it is equally apparent that the procedures followed have not appropriately placed the question before this Court.  This is the first case in which a party has filedpapers with this Court in an effort to place before us issues already pending in litigation before another court.  It is understandable that litigants might encounter procedural difficulties in such a novel effort.

[1 FSM Intrm. 500]

     There is some temptation to attempt to accommodate the parties and expedite proceedings by passing over the procedural difficulties and moving directly to the jurisdictional questions.  That however would require that we disregard provisions in the Constitution as well as this Court's Rules of Civil Procedure.

     Moreover, delicate questions of federalism are involved here.  It is imperative that we proceed meticulously in these cases of first impression to establish proper approaches in conformity with normal procedural requirements and to set this Court on the course charted by the framers of the Constitution.

     The standard method of obtaining a determination from this Court as to our jurisdiction over specific parties or issues is to file a civil or criminal action with the Court.

     This Court's Rules of Civil Procedure confirm that the filing of a complaint is the essential first step for instituting civil litigation.  FSM Civ. R. 3.  Our Rules of Civil Procedure specify no other method whereby a party may obtain judicial action from this Court in civil litigation.

[1 FSM Intrm. 501]

In these three cases, only motions, but no complaints, were filed.  In the absence of complaints initiating civil actions, no judicial grant of relief is permitted.

     If for some reason a state court litigant seeking a ruling from the Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court on a question of constitutional or national law cannot, or does not wish to initiate a civil proceeding in this Court's Trial Division for that purpose, the Constitution provides another procedure.

When a case in a state or local court involves a substantial question requiringthe interpretation of the Constitution, national law, or a treaty, on applicationof a party or on its own motion the court shall certify the question to the appellate division of the Supreme Court.  The appellate division of the Supreme Court may decide the case or remand it for further proceedings.

FSM Const. art. XI, 8.

     Under this provision, a State Court receiving a proper motion is required to certify any substantial constitutional question to this Court's Appellate Division for proper disposition.

[1 FSM Intrm. 502]

Conclusion
     Two methods exist for obtaining FSM Supreme Court action on questions of the kind tendered by movants in these three cases.  Neither, nor any other proper method, has been employed here.

     Therefore the motions to assume jurisdiction are denied, without prejudice to the right of any party to follow either of the procedures outlined in this opinion.

     SO ORDERED the 8th  day of June, 1984.


/s/ Edward C. King
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the
Federated States of Micronesia

     So entered this 19th day of June, 1984.

/s/ Emeliana J. Musrasrik
Chief Clerk of the Court