THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as In re Chikamoto ,
4 FSM Intrm. 245 (Pohnpei 1990)
In re Pro Hac Vice motion
of Roy T. Chikamoto
CIV. No. 1990-025
Edward C. King
June 4, 1990
For the Petitioner: Roy T. Chikamoto (In Pro Per)
Suite 2300, City Financial Tower
201 Merchant Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
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Attorney, Trial Counselor and Client
The decision whether to permit an attorney, not licensed within the FSM, to practice before the FSM Supreme Court, in a particular case falls within the sound discretion of the trial judge. In re Chikamoto, 4 FSM Intrm. 245, 248 (Pon. 1990).
Attorney, Trial Counselor and Client
FSM Adm. R. IV(A) does not provide a means for a nonresident attorney, who has not been licensed to practice before the Court and who has no reasonable prospect of being licensed in the near future, nonetheless to be permitted to practice before the Court on a continuing basis. In re Chikamoto, 4 FSM Intrm. 245, 249 (Pon. 1990).
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COURT'S OPINION AND ORDER
EDWARD C. KING, Chief Justice:
Roy T. Chikamoto, an attorney licensed to practice in Hawaii, and who resides there, has not been admitted to practice before this Court on a
general basis and therefore moves ex parte to be permitted to appear pro hac vice, that is, for particular cases, on behalf of the Bank of Hawaii. The ex parte motion is made pursuant to Rule IV. A. of this Court's Rules of Admission.1
Rule IV. A. sets out criteria which will be applied in considering motions filed by attorneys not licensed here, but admitted to practice in other jurisdictions, who wish to appear before this Court in a particular case.
Attorneys Admitted To Practice In Other Jurisdictions - The Court will consider, among other things, the likelihood that granting of the motion may delay proceedings, because of communication or transportation problems; whether the movant, if not a resident of the Federated States of Micronesia, will be affiliated with local counsel knowledgeable about the litigation and capable of appearing at pre-trial and other preliminary proceedings; whether the movant, if a resident of the Federated States of Micronesia, is moving as expeditiously as possible to obtain certification as an attorney within the Federated States of Micronesia; the availability of other counsel; the complexity of the case; whether there had been prior professional association of the attorney with the client; the proof adduced of good character, competence, and admission in other jurisdictions; and any other factors indicating whether the granting of the motion would be in the interests of justice.
In an attempt to comply with the requirements of the rule, Mr. Chikamoto has submitted an affidavit, and a certificate of good standing indicating that he is a member of the bar of the state of Hawaii in the United States. He has also submitted a resume concerning his background in the practice of law. The resume reveals that Mr. Chikamoto's work with the Honolulu District Office of the United States Small Business Administration from 1982 to 1987 placed him in contact with people in various areas of Micronesia and that his interest in and contact with Micronesian governments has continued since that time.
The resume also indicates that Mr. Chikamoto was admitted to practice before the High Court of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and that he is a member of the bars of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, Territory of American Samoa and the Territory of Guam. The affidavit recites, and this Court is aware, that Mr. Chikamoto for several years has been actively seeking the opportunity to take the FSM bar examination in order to be admitted to practice generally before this Court, but his efforts to do so have been thwarted because he is not a resident of the Federated States of Micronesia. See FSM Adm. R. II. C.
The Court makes the following findings concerning the criteria set forth in Rule IV. A.
1. Likelihood of delay - A strong factor militating against permitting nonresident attorneys to serve as lead counsel in cases before this Court is the possibility of delay. There seems little likelihood that delay would follow from the granting of this motion. Mr. Chikamoto in previous cases has demonstrated his ability either to appear personally at scheduled proceedings or to arrange for timely appearances by local counsel. He pledges to continue to do so.
2. Affiliation with local counsel - Affiliation with local counsel can be useful not only to guard against possibilities of delay, especially in unusual or emergency situations, but also to enhance communications between the Office of the Clerk of Court and counsel and to increase the likelihood that counsel will be familiar with local procedures2 and even substantive nuances.
Mr. Chikamoto's application reflects awareness of these considerations but his response is, at best, ambivalent. He states that if the Court deems association with local counsel necessary for the specific purpose of attending emergency, pretrial and other preliminary hearings that Mr. Chikamoto can not attend, then he "will consider" such association. The affidavit adds the caveat that this commitment to "consider" association is "subject to [Mr. Chikamoto's] finding that an attorney is willing, able, and competent enough to associate with affiant and which association is approved by Plaintiff herein."
These representations merely amount to a statement that if the Court requires Mr. Chikamoto to associate with local counsel, Mr. Chikamoto may or may not do so, depending upon what he and his client decide. The Court has an obligation to assure the expeditious administration of justice and must retain the authority to do so. The statement by Mr. Chikamoto that he and his client "will consider" compliance with any order for local association is not acceptable.
3. Attempting to obtain certification as an attorney -
This requirement applies only to residents of the Federated States of Micronesia and therefore is inapplicable to Mr. Chikamoto.
4. Availability of other counsel - There may from time to time be cases, even collection enforcement efforts, which present such highly complex or factually detailed issues that a client may reasonably desire counsel with specialized knowledge and experience. There also may conceivably be circumstances where the alleged debtor is such a powerful figure that no attorneys residing within the Federated States of Micronesia would be willing to oppose that person in litigation. Finally, when a substantial business operation becomes insolvent, all of the attorneys within the jurisdiction could be drawn into the case, representing either the debtor corporation or one of the creditors. In any of these circumstances there might be no attorneys licensed to practice within the jurisdiction who are available to represent a particular party. However none of those considerations apply here. There is no indication that the Bank of Hawaii would be unable to obtain competent representation by attorneys generally admitted to practice before this Court in the cases for which Mr. Chikamoto is seeking permission to appear.
5. Complexity of the case - These actions, based upon promissory notes, presumably will be extremely simple litigation, for a promissory note itself constitutes strong evidence of the alleged debts, and renders defense against such a claim quite difficult.
6. Prior professional association between attorney and client - There is no indication that Mr. Chikamoto or his law firm are general counsel for the Bank of Hawaii or that they have an especially close professional association. Thus, no reason appears why the Bank of Hawaii would have strong reasons based upon close working relationships or Mr. Chikamoto's broad knowledge of the bank's activities, to consider Mr. Chikamoto's involvement as counsel in this litigation essential to the bank's interest.
Thus, the Court finds that Mr. Chikamoto's application meets two of the six applicable Rule IV. A. standards, but that the other four pertinent criteria are not met.
The decision as to whether to permit an attorney to practice before this Court in a particular case is one which falls within the sound discretion of the trial judge. This Court's policy in that regard has generally been extremely liberal. For example, Mr. Chikamoto has previously been permitted to appear before this Court in other cases pursuant to motions considerably less elaborate than the motion in these two cases.
However, it has now become apparent from the supporting documents filed by Mr. Chikamoto, and from his other activities within this jurisdiction, that in fact Mr. Chikamoto wishes to practice before this Court on a general and continuing basis. He has now on several occasions requested the opportunity to appear before the FSM Supreme Court trial division. Those requests have
involved cases in Chuuk and Kosrae as well as in Pohnpei.
The two cases tendered with the instant motions are typical of the pattern. Both complaints are based upon promissory notes allegedly signed by the defendants. These seem to be extremely simple collection cases calling for no special expertise on the part of counsel for plaintiff. Mr. Chikamoto recites in his affidavit that "collection matters such as the instant case comprise the major part of affiant's practice." Thus it is apparent that Mr. Chikamoto wishes to be permitted to appear before this Court on a continuing basis to represent creditors in actions similar to these.
This is a far different proposition than merely requesting an opportunity to appear in one particular case under special circumstances. Rule IV. A. was not intended as a means whereby a nonresident attorney, who has not been licensed to practice before the Court and who has no reasonable prospect of being licensed in the near future, may nonetheless be permitted to practice before the Court on a continuing basis.
The motion to appear pro hac vice will be denied.
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1. The motion also recites that it is made pursuant to Rule 7(a) of the FSM Rules of Civil Procedure. However there is no mention as to how that rule, which merely describes the pleadings that may be filed in civil litigation, might apply to the motion. The Court sees no basis for application of Rule 7(a) to the motion for pro hac vice admission. Accordingly, the motion will be regarded as having been based only on Rule IV. A. of the Rules of Admission.