THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33 (Yap 1993)
MARTIN FAW, Personal Representative
of the Deceased, MANNGUR,
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA,
Defendant, Third Party Plaintiff,
Third Party Defendant.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1992-3002
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Decided: April 7, 1993
For the Plaintiff: Clara Kalscheur
(Martin Faw, Personal Micronesian Legal Services Corporation
Representative of the P.O. Box 57
Deceased, Manngur) Koror, Palau PW 96949
For the FSM: Douglas Juergens, Esq.
(Defendant, Third Chief of Litigation
Party Plaintiff) Office of the FSM Attorney General
P.O. Box PS-105
Palikir, Pohnpei FM 96941
For Yap State: Carmen Clark Weeks
(Third Party Defendant) Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Yap Attorney General
Colonia, Yap FM 96943
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Constitutional Law ) Interpretation; Jurisdiction
The term "concurrent" in article XI, section 6(c) of the FSM Constitution has the same meaning as in section 6(b); i.e., that jurisdiction is concurrent as between the FSM Supreme Court and any other national courts that may be established by statute. It would be illogical and contrary to norms of constitutional interpretation to assume a different meaning for "concurrent" in section 6(c) than in section 6(b), since it is quite clear that the two sections are to be read together. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 35 (Yap 1993).
The framers of the Constitution made clear that the term "exclusive" in article XI, section 6(a) of the FSM Constitution means that for the types of cases listed in that section, the trial division of the FSM Supreme Court is the only court of jurisdiction. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 35 (Yap 1993).
Jurisdiction; Federalism ) National/State Power
A state law cannot divest the FSM Supreme Court of exclusive jurisdiction in cases arising under article XI, section 6(a) of the FSM Constitution. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 36-37 (Yap 1993).
Federalism ) Abstention and Certification
Because the FSM Supreme Court is the only court of jurisdiction in cases arising under article XI, section 6(a) of the FSM Constitution, the Court has no discretion to abstain in such cases. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 36 (Yap 1993).
Civil Procedure ) Pleadings
The pleading requirements of FSM Civil Rule 8(a) are to be interpreted liberally, and a complaint which states the grounds of jurisdiction and alleges facts sufficient to put the defendant on notice as to the nature and basis of the claim being made sufficiently complies with the rule. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 36-37 (Yap 1993).
Civil Procedure ) Dismissal
A motion under FSM Civil Rule 12(b) to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any state of facts which could be proven in support. Faw v. FSM, 6 FSM Intrm. 33, 37 (Yap 1993).
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MARTIN YINUG, Associate Justice:
This memorandum is issued to explain the reasoning for the Court's Order of April 6, 1993 denying Third Party Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Third Party Complaint.
Yap State seeks dismissal of the Third Party Complaint against it for lack of jurisdiction. In the alternative, should the Court determine it has jurisdiction, Yap State argues that the Court should apply choice of laws doctrine and decline jurisdiction in favor of a state court forum. Finally, Yap State asserts an independent cause for dismissal of the complaint for failure to comply with
FSM Civil Rule 8(a). We will discuss each issue in turn.
I. LACK OF JURISDICTION
Yap State's argument against national court jurisdiction relies on reading article XI, section 6(c) of the FSM Constitution together with the Yap Government Liability Act of 1986, 31 Y.S.C. sections 104(c) and (d). Article XI, section 6(c) states: "When jurisdiction is concurrent, the proper court may be prescribed by statute." FSM Const. art. XI, § 6(c) (emphasis added). 31 Y.S.C. 104 authorizes "original and exclusive jurisdiction" in the trial Division of Yap State Court for certain classes of claims. Yap State submits that the claims raised by the FSM Government's Third Party Complaint fall under section 104(c) (claims on contracts within Yap State) and section 104(d) (wrongful death or personal injury involving acts of State employees). Therefore, Yap State argues, only Yap State Court could properly exercise jurisdiction over the claims asserted in the present action.
This argument, however, rests on the erroneous assumption that jurisdiction in this case is concurrent. Yap State misinterprets the meaning of "concurrent" in article XI, section 6(c). The FSM Supreme Court has already ruled on several occasions that the term "concurrent" as used in article XI, section 6(b) of the FSM Constitution does not include state and local courts, but refers solely to the FSM Supreme Court and such other national courts as may be established by statute. Hawk v. Pohnpei, 4 FSM Intrm. 85, 89 (App. 1989); In re Estate of Hartman, 4 FSM Intrm. 386, 387 (Chk. 1989); U Corp. v. Salik, 3 FSM Intrm. 370, 377 (Pon. 1988). It would be illogical and contrary to norms of constitutional interpretation to assume a different meaning for "concurrent" in section 6(c) than in section 6(b), since it is quite clear that the two sections are to be read together.
Yap State also ignores the applicability of article XI, section 6(a) to this case. Were this matter a strict diversity case, Yap State might still be able to argue a jurisdictional base for Yap State Court through Yap State law, 31 Y.S.C. 104. The appellate division of this Court has held that article XI, section 6(b) does not absolutely preclude the states from hearing the kinds of cases specified in that clause, if acting according to state law. Hawk v. Pohnpei, 4 FSM Intrm. 85, 89 (App. 1989). However, primary jurisdiction in this case does not rest on sections 6(b) and (c) for the simple reason that the national government is a party. Section 6(a) states that in cases in which the national government is a party, except where a land interest is at issue, the trial division of the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction. Any doubt about the meaning of "exclusive" in this context is resolved by referring to the constitutional history of the amendment of section 6(a) which provided its current wording:
only the trial division of the Supreme Court of Micronesia shall have
original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases affecting officials of foreign
governments, disputes between states, admiralty or maritime cases, and
cases in which the national government is a party. The purpose of this
amendment is to make the trial division of the Supreme Court of Micronesia
the only court which can handle these cases.
I J. of Micro. Con. Con. 492 (emphasis added).1
A court can not have both exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction over the same matter
simultaneously. There is no doubt that the Court has exclusive jurisdiction in this case. That Yap State also claims exclusive jurisdiction in its courts over certain claims in the matter does not defeat the national jurisdiction. In fact, the Appellate Division of this Court has already ruled on this very issue in regard to the Yap Government Liability Act:
The state law provision attempting to place "original and exclusive jurisdiction" in the Yap State Court of course cannot divest a national court of responsibilities placed upon it by the national constitution, which is the "supreme law of the Federated States of Micronesia." FSM Const. art. II.
Gimnang v. Yap, 5 FSM Intrm. 13, 23 (App. 1991).
In Gimnang, the FSM Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction over the issue of the constitutionality of a Yap State tax law because it was bound to do so by the FSM Constitution, regardless of Yap State law provisions purportedly confining jurisdiction to Yap State courts. Likewise in the present action, the FSM Supreme Court is constitutionally vested with jurisdiction over a matter involving the national government as a party.
Because we find no choice of jurisdictional forum exists, Yap State's alternative request that we decline to exercise jurisdiction in the face of significant state contacts must also be denied. The Court finds no discretion to abstain in section 6(a) cases given the clear intent of the Constitution's framers. The FSM Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, abstained in favor of state court adjudication in article XI, section 6(b) cases where questions of state law governed the case, or where questions of state law governed the case, or where a state court determination of unsettled questions of state law would obviate the need for constitutional review, or where issues of land interests were at stake. See Ponape Transfer & Storage v. Federated Shipping Co., 4 FSM Intrm. 37 (Pon. 1989); Hadley v. Kolonia Town Municipality, 3 FSM Intrm. 101 (Pon. 1987); Etpison v. Perman, 1 FSM Intrm. 405 (Pon. 1984); In re Nahnsen, 1 FSM Intrm. 97 (Pon. 1982). However, the FSM Supreme Court has never abstained in Section 6(a) case and will not do so now.
My decision that abstention is not possible in this case does not reflect a view as to the availability of certification of state law questions as a future option. That is a separate issue not presently before the Court at this stage of the litigation and it is therefore premature to decide either as a general matter whether certification is allowable in section 6(a) cases or whether the facts of this case would warrant employing such an option.
III. SUFFICIENCY OF THE COMPLAINT
Yap State's final argument is that deficiencies in the content of the complaint warrant dismissal pursuant to FSM Civil Rule 12(b), presumably for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The issue is whether the complaint is so flawed as to fall short of the pleading requirements of FSM Civil Rule 8(a).
There are three requirements under FSM Civil Rule 8(a) for pleadings stating claims for relief. I find that the first condition, a short, plain statement on the grounds of jurisdiction, is satisfied by paragraph 1 of the Third Party Complaint. The second and third requirements relate to a short, plain statement of the claim and a demand for judgment.
There have been no FSM cases interpreting adequacy of pleadings under Rule 8(a). Since the FSM Rule is derived verbatim from the United States Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 (hereinafter FRCP 8), it is appropriate to look to judicial interpretations of the U.S. rule for guidance. FSM v. Ponape Builders Constr., Inc., 2 FSM Intrm. 48, 52 (Pon. 1985).
The requirements of FRCP 8 are interpreted liberally. They are designed to be flexible and informal rather than technical. The purpose of a complaint is "simply to give the defendant notice of the essence of the plaintiff's claim with sufficient clarity to enable the defendant to answer, that is, fair notice of factual wrong openly stated on the basis of facts asserted." 27 Federal Procedure § 62:20 (L. Ed. 1984) (citations omitted).
While the party asserting a claim must allege at least some facts in support, he is not required "to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim . . . all the Rules require is `a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99, 103, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 85 (1957).
I find the requirements of Rules 8(a)(2) and (3) are met by the Third Party Complaint. The principal allegation of the Complaint is a breach of contractual duty owed by Yap State to the FSM government. Third Party Complaint paras. 6-7. That an express contract is involved is clear from paragraphs 4 and 5 of the complaint. The facts alleged are sufficient to put Third Party Defendant Yap State on notice as to the nature and basis of the claim being made by the national government, i.e. breach of contract. Nothing more is required by our Rules. The fact that the particular JLEA at issue is not specified, nor the specific duties thereunder, does not doom the complaint. Yap State may obtain this particular information through ordinary discovery, and is not prejudiced in answering the complaint without it. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. at 47-48, 78 S. Ct. at 103, 2 L. Ed. 2d at 85 ("Such simplified `notice pleading' is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pretrial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense and to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues.").
A motion under FSM Civil Rule 12(b) to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any state of facts which could be proven in support. Mailo v. Twum-Barimah, 2 FSM Intrm. 265, 267 (Pon. 1986). I am satisfied that the claim of breach of government contract is sufficiently stated, and that the fact alleged in the Third Party Complaint, if proven, would support the claim and provide a basis for relief. I also find the Complaint includes an adequate prayer for such relief pursuant to FSM Civil Rule 8(a)(3).
For all of the foregoing reasons, Yap State's motion to dismiss the Third Party Complaint is denied. Yap State is instructed to answer the Third Party Complaint in accordance with FSM Civil Rule 12(a).
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