Selected High Court Decisions

Selected High Court decisions will be made available as they are scanned. The selected cases are the noteworthy ones, ones that the Judiciary believes should be published for the benefit to the public and practitioners. The High Court will not publish a case unless it satisfies one or more of the following standards: (1) the opinion lays down a new rule of law, or alters, modifies an existing rule, or applies an established rule to a novel fact situation; (2) the opinion involves a legal issue of continuing public interest; (3) the opinion directs attention to the shortcomings of existing common law or inadequacies in statutes; (4) the opinion resolves an apparent conflict of authority. The great majority of High Court decisions are routine in nature and generally are of interest only to the parties. However, the public can get copies of these decisions upon request to the Clerk of the Courts. See the Disclaimer page.

2006

  1. Bill, et al. v CEO, CA 2004-081 (12/20/06), holding that the Chief Electoral Office did not abuse his discretion in rejecting several postal ballots mailed in one express envelope and not individually so that they were postmarked on or before the date of the election as required by law.

2008

  1. Royal Marshall Corp. v. The Assembly of God Church, et al., CA 2008-108 (08/06/08), order denying request for preliminary injunction for failing to establish irreparable harm and probability of success.

2009

  1. In the Matter of the 30th Nitijela Constitutional Regular Session, Interpretation of Constitution, CA 2009-088 (04/17/09), Judgment re Vote of No Confidence holding vote must be taken within constitutional 10-day time limit.

2010

  1. Joseph Rosenquist, Derivatively on Behalf of Nominal Defendant Dryships, Inc., v. George Economou, et al., CA 2009-056 (02/19/10), Order Granting Individual Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss [] in a derivative action suit.
  2. CEO v. Simeon et al., CA 2008-068 (12/10/10), holding the “date of election” by which a postal ballot must be post marked is the date in the Republic, not in the country where the ballot was mailed.

2011

  1. Republic of the Marshall Islands v. Mantiera, Cr 2011-013 (04/1311), finding “good cause” to proceed at a preliminary hearing to proceed to arraignment and trial.
  2. Yandall v. White Rivers Gold Ltd. and Mason, CA 2010-158 (05/19/11), Order dismissing cases Mason for lack of personal jurisdiction: signing stock certifications in a non-resident corporation did not amount to performing an act in the Republic.
  3. Lutz Kayser and Susanne Kayser-Schillegger v. Hon. Chief Justice Carl B. Ingram, Google, Inc., Microsoft Corp, IAC/InterActive Corp., Ybrand Digital, LTD, Yahoo Inc., CA Nos. 2010-207 and 2011-022 (08/04/11), Order dismissing cases against Chief Justice Ingram based upon absolute judicial immunity and dismissing case against the Internet Defendants on various grounds.
  4. Jack Jorbon v. Public Service Commission, CA No. 2011-154 (09/19/11), Order Denying Plaintiff’s [] Motion for Preliminary Injunction against compelled leave from Public Service employment while running for political office.
  5. Republic of Marshall Islands v. Jomuly, Cr 2011-028 (09/07/11), Order Dismissing Case for failure of the Republic to proceed with a preliminary hearing in a timely manner.
  6. Republic of Marshall Islands v. Chen, Cr No. 2010-028 (11/11/11), Judgment of Conviction and Sentencing Order for promoting prostitution.

2012

  1. Republic of the Marshall Islands v. Lang, et al., Cr No. 2010-020 (02/13/13), order denying suppression motion as the defendant’s incriminating statement was not involuntary, extracted without informing him of his rights, nor the product of coercion.
  2. Republic of the Marshall Islands v. Zhou, Cr No. 2011-041 (02/22/13), Judgment of Conviction and Sentencing Order for promoting prostitution.
  3. In Re Citizenship of Kiritano, CA No. 2009-239 (02/27/12), Order setting out factors to be used in determining “in the interest of justice” for citizenship by registration based upon Marshall descent.
  4. Boreta Ltd. v. Constant Finance Ltd., CA No. 2011-018 (07/09/12), Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment upholding provisions of the New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards and the Marshall Islands Uniform Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act.
  5. Libokmeto and Waser v. Makroro, CA No. 2012-123 (07/13/12), order denying request for a temporary restraining order for the failure to certify efforts to give the defendant notice of the request or to give reasons for not giving the defendant notice.
  6. MINAJ Hldgs Ltd., et al., v. Int’l Maritime Trdg Co. Ltd., CA No. 2011-032 (07/09/12), Order Dismissing Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint for the failure to state a cause of action against the vessel owner for a third party shipper’s alleged failure to deliver goods.
  7. Matthew, et al., v. CEO, CA 2011-224 (12/10/10), Order dismissing petition by unsuccessful candidates in a Nitijela elections for failing to exhaust administrative remedies.

2013

  1. In Re Citizenship of Cayetano, CA No. 2011-193 (03/04/13): The Court issue a decree of eligibility to register as a citizen, holding that to register as a citizen under Art. XI, Sec. 2(1)(b) of the Constitution the petitioner need only establish that he is the parent of a child that is a citizen, that he has lawfully resided in the Republic for at least three years, and that he is not disqualified in the interest of national security; the petitioner need not establish that granting the petition is in the “interest of justice,” as would be the case if he sought citizenship by descent under Art. XI, Sec. 2(1)(c) of the Constitution, nor need he establish that he is married to the mother of his Marshallese child.
  2. Capelle v. College of the Marshall Islands, CA No. 2011-095 (03/14/13): The Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff on his wrongful discharge claim as the defendant  not following its own procedures wrongfully discharged its employee.
  3. Abon v Marshall Islands Social Security Administration, CA No. 2012-025 (03/18/13): The Court held the under its regulations MISSA properly denied plaintiff survivor benefits as the customarily adopted child of the deceased worker because the worker did not petition for confirmation of the customary adoption prior to his death as required by regulation.
  4. In re Citizenship of Tamuera, CA No. 2010-114 (04/25/13): The Court denied the petitioner’s petition for citizenship by registration based upon Marshallese descent for failing to establish that granting the petition would be “in the interest of justice.”
  5. Marshall Islands Social Security Administration v. Holly, CA No. 2012-018 (05/23/13): The Court awared MISSA penalties and attorneys fees for the defendant’s failure to timely pay social security contributions, but not finding that lease payments are compensation for purposes of calculation the contributions due.
  6. Republic of the Marshall Islands v. Betwell, Cr No. 2013-003 (07/22/13): The Court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence for the failure to advise the defendant of his rights, entrapment, or coercion, as the defendant volunteered his statement and was not entrapped or coerced.

2014

  1. In re the Matter of 35th Nitijela Constitutional Regular Session, Interpretation of Constitution, CA 2014-081 (03/13/14): The Court held that “recess” for purposes of a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet under Article IV, Section 11(1)(b) of the Constitution means an inter-session recess, not an intra-session recess, notwithstanding the definition of “recess” in the Nitijela Rules of Procedure.
  2. In re Petition for Citizenship by Registration by Wu Jianya, CA 2014-105 (08/21/14): The Court held that to register as a citizen under Article XI, Section 2(1)(b) of the Constitution it is necessary and sufficient that a person has resided in the Republic for more than three years, is the parent of a child who is a citizen, is not disqualified on national security grounds, and is prepared to renounce one’s current citizenship and swear allegiance to the Republic, as the Constitution requires. The Constitution does not require that the person be a resident for three years on a “residence visa” or any particular visa. Nor is the person disqualified by the Republic’s unproven allegations that the person has violated the laws of the Republic.
  3. Jilly v Utrik Atoll Local Distribution Authority, CA 2014-123 (11/03/14): The Court held that by statute the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, not the High Court has jurisdiction to resolve, disputes concerning the distribution of funds by a local distribution authority.
  4. Phillip and Phillip v Attorney-General and the Republic, CA 2014-133 (12/01/14): The Court denied a motion to set aside a default judgment against the Republic, where the Republic failed to move to set aside the entry or establish grounds for setting aside the default judgment.
  5. Bank of Marshall Islands v Shamory, et al., CA 2014-228 (12/23/14): The court held that, notwithstanding contract language allowing for attorneys fees, counsel for the bank must establish that the requested attorneys fee are reasonable, as required under General Order 2005-001.
  6. Jacob v. Kendall and Remios, CA 2008-221 (12/30/14): The Court affirmed the Traditional Rights Court’s determination that defendant Kendall is the alap over the 25 disputed wetos on Wotje Atoll and Erkub Atoll as the biological child of former alap Kendal Lojen or as his adopted child that he considered his biological child under the traditional practice of “kanin lojeo,” or from my womb, such that Kendall’s rights were not subordinate to the rights of other biological members of the bwij.

2015

  1. Niedenthal v. CEO, CA 2014-263 (02/25/15): The granted plaintiff Niedenthal’s motion for summary judgment holding that the Nitijela Act, Section 145(6) of the Elections and Referenda Act 1980, which purports to require that candidates for the Nitijela, in addition to the requirements set forth in Article VI, Sec. 4(1) of the Constitution, have a mother or father of Marshallese descent with a customary jowi, was enacted in violation of the Constitution, and therefore does not have the force of law and is void.
  2. Hitto and Emil v Toka, et al., CA 21-80 and 1986-149 (consolidated) (05/22/15): The Court ruled as follows: as to Aibwij, Hitto holds the alab interest and Emil holds the senior dri jerbal interest; as to Monke Weto, Bejang holds the alab interest and James holds the senior dri jerbal interest; and as to Lojonen Weto, Jebrejrej hold the alab interest and Kinere holds the senior dri jerbal interest. Further, the court entered default judgment against Korok and set aside the existing preliminary injunction.  Funds held in the Bank of Guam in this matter may be distributed subject to a 31-day stay, unless ordered otherwise.
  3. Majuro Atoll Local Government v. Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, CA 15-25 (11/23/15): The Court denied MALGOV’s motion for summary judgment, holding the Marine Resources Act 1997, which grants MIMRA exclusive powers and functions over fishery waters in the Republic, including the Majuro lagoon, does not violate MALGOV’s constitutional jurisdiction for the Majuro lagoon.
  4. Lamina Y Placa de Monterrey SA CV v. Star Cosmo LLC, in personam, and Daewoo Logistics Corp., CA 14-66 (12/1/15): The Court granted defendant Star Cosmo’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Star Cosmo had met its MIRCP Rule 56(a) obligations in showing (i) there was no genuine issue of material fact and (ii) Star Cosmo was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, as Lamina Y Placa had failed to offer evidence otherwise as required under MIRCP 56( c)(l )(A).

2016

  1. Kabua, et al., v. M/V Mell Springwood, CA 2015-200 (06/20/16): The court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss under MIRCP 12(b)(6) for the plaintiffs’ failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding private owners of dry land do not have a claim for damage to the reef, which by law belongs to the National Government.
  2. Asignacion v. Rickmers, CA 2016-026 (11/10/16): The granted defendant’s motion to dismiss under MIRCP 12(b)(6) for the failure of plaintiff to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The plaintiff, a Filipino seaman, sued the defendant for injuries he suffered while working on the defendant’s vessel, a Marshall Islands flagged vessel.  A state trial court in Louisiana, where the injury occurred and where the plaintiff filed suit, referred the matter to arbitration in the Philippines pursuant to the plaintiff’s employment contract.  An arbitration panel in the Philippines made an award.  Plaintiff was unsatisfied with the award and sought to challenge it in the Louisiana state court. Defendant removed the matter to the federal court.  The Louisiana Federal District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.  However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal overruled the District Court and upheld the arbitration award. The United States Supreme Court denied cert.  Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff sued the defendant in the Marshall Islands, seeking to have the High Court reject the Court of Appeals’ decision and allow the matter to go to trial.  Plaintiff brought the Marshall Islands suit three years after the statue of limitation had run. The Court held that plaintiff’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations and by res judicata.

2017

  1. MYJAC Foundation, Panama, v Arce and Alfaro (1), CA 2016-139 (01/30/17):  The Court (i) granted the plaintiff MYJAC’s motion for default judgment against the defendants Arce and Alfaro for ownership of the shares in two Marshall Islands non-resident corporations and (ii) confirmed that plaintiff MYJAC, as the sole shareholder of the two corporation, may designate to the RMI Registrar of Corporations new addresses of record.
  2. Arno/Mili Sea Trans. Ser’s, Inc., v MV Bokan EV and Marsh. Is. Ship’g Corp., CA 2011-186 (03/15/17):  A cargo vessel owned by the shipping corporation but operated by plaintiff drifted onto a reef. Shortly after the vessel was recovered and repaired, the shipping corporation seized it. Plaintiff sued for damages and lost profits. Prior to trial, the Court ruled that the parties’ written contracts were unenforceable. As a result, only plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim was tried. The Court, relying on Section 31(1) of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment, held that the shipping corporation, which had paid plaintiff only one-half of the agreed copra shipping subsidies, had been unjustly enriched. The Court awarded judgment to plaintiff for the unpaid shipping subsidies, but denied plaintiff’s claim for salvage and repair costs because plaintiff was the vessel’s operator when the vessel drifted onto the reef.
  3. Nat’l Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the Marshall Islands v Huston Lokeijak, CA 2015-066 (05/30/17): The Court granted plaintiff NSAOB’s motion for summary judgment to title over land. By repeated inaction, the defendant waived his right to refer matters of customary title to the Traditional Rights Court for decision. For protracted delay, the defendant’s claims and defenses are barred under the doctrine of laches.
  4. Yamamura v Kaiko, et al., CA 2017-032 (06/12/17):  The High Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff’s claims against officials and employees of the Utrik Local Government Council for misusing ULGC Section 177 Funds.  By statute (42 MIRC 104 and 106(3)),  such claims are to be heard by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, and the NCT’s determinations are not subject to review by the High Court.  Pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution, the High Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to review the determination of government agencies, when review is excluded by statute.  Even though the NCT is now unfunded and no longer functioning, the High Court still does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims.
  5. Mongaya v AET MCV BETA LLC, et al., CA 2017-044 (08/10/17): The Court issued an order granting defendants’ motions to stay action pending arbitration.  Plaintiff, a citizen of the Philippines, was severely injured while employed as a seafarer on the M/V Eagle Texas.  Under his Philippine Overseas Administration Standard Employment Contract, he is required to participate in arbitration for claims and disputes arising from his employment.  The Court, granted the defendants’ motions to stay proceeding pending arbitration, citing Sections 304 and 305(1) the Arbitration Act 1980, 30 MIRC Ch. 3, and Article II, Section 3 of the New York Convention on Enforcement and Recognition on Foreign Arbitral Awards, to which the Republic acceded in 2006.
  6. Chee v Zhang et al., CA 2016-254 (10/16/17).  The Court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over the individual defendants and under the doctrine of forum non conveniens as to all defendants.  The defendants did not engage in conduct that subjected them to the civil jurisdiction of the Republic under the Republic’s long-arm statute, 27 MIRC 251, and their conduct did not meet the “minimum contacts” test for exercising jurisdiction over non-residents.  Moreover, there were alternative jurisdictions for the suit (China and Canada) and both private and public interests mitigated in favor of prosecuting the case in other jurisdictions.
  7. Hitto and Emil v Toka and Caleb v Bejang, et al., CA 21-80 and 1986-149 (10/23/17): The Court denied defendants / counterclaimants’ motion for post-judgment interest on money held by the Court for distribution to the winning party, as opposed to money the losing party is ordered to pay the winning party.
  8. MYJAC Foundation, Panama, v Arce and Alfaro (2), CA 2016-139 (01/30/17):  The Court denied the defendants’ motion to set aside the default judgment.
  9. Samuel v. Chief Electoral Officer, CA 2016-121 (12/14/17):  Plaintiff Samuel was a candidate in the November 2015 election for mayor of the Majuro Atoll Local Government (“MALGOV”). However, he received fewer votes than one of his opponents, Ladie Jack. Samuel petitioned the Chief Electoral Officer (“CEO”) for a recount. Without ruling the recount petition, the CEO, on December 19, 2015, certified that Ladie Jack had won the race. Under the MALGOV Constitution, Section 8(1), the term of office of mayor commences on the day after the day on which his election or appointment is certified. After the certification, Jack assumed office as the mayor of MALGOV. Samuel sued the CEO for certifying the results before his recount petition was resolved, and Samuel claimed that until his recount petition was resolved, he was the holdover mayor of Majuro. Samuel argued that allowing Jack to serve as mayor on a “premature certification” would be an absurd result and that the Court should interpret Section 8(1) to avoid such a result. Although the Associate Justice of the High Court found that the CEO’s certification was premature, he ruled that under a superior rule of statutory construction, i.e., the “preeminent” rule, where the law is unambiguous, the court should not interpret the law, but rather apply the law as written. And, as Section 8(1) was clear and unambiguous, he would not interpret it or rewrite it as Samuel requests. Accordingly, in denying Samuel’s motion for a summary judgment and granting the CEO’s motion to dismiss, he held that although the CEO had prematurely certified the election results, Jack became the mayor of Majuro the day after the certification.

2018

  1. Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. v Focus Investment Ltd. and Mehmet Emin Karmehmet, CA 2017-081 (02/07/18): The Court granted defendant Karamehmet’s Motion to Dismiss, holding that to maintain an action to enforce a foreign judgment, a plaintiff must demonstrate (i) that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant debtor or (ii) that the defendant debtor’s property can be found in the forum. On the facts presented, the Court concluded that it did not have personal jurisdiction over Karamehmet, a non-resident. Plaintiff Samsung could not demonstrate the Court had either general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction over Karamehmet. Also, the Court concluded that Karamehmet’s property, i.e., shares in Focus, were not located in the Republic. The Court found that the situs of shares in non-resident domestic corporations, like Focus, was not the Republic. To reach the shares in a corporation, the creditor must seize the share certificates, as set forth in Section 112(a) of the Uniform Commercial Code, which section the Court adopted as the common law of the Republic regarding reaching shares owned by a judgment debtor.
  2. RMI v Antolok, Cr 2017-020 (02/07/18): The Court granted the Republic’s motion to use hearsay evidence at the preliminary hearing, holding that the admission of hearsay testimony in  a preliminary hearing does not violate the defendant’s constitutional right to confront the witness, because the confrontation clause is a trial right that does not extend to preliminary hearings.
  3. Samuel v CEO, et al., Cr 2017-037 (08/31/18): This case is a challenge to the 2015 mayor’s election for the Majuro Atoll Local Government. Under the Elections and Referenda Act 1980, 2 MIRC Chp. 1 (“Elections Act”), the Electoral Administration headed by Chief Electoral Officer Robson Y. Almen (“CEO”) conducted the election on November 16, 2015. Appellant Samuel was a candidate for mayor, as was the eventual winner, Ladie Jack. The Court took judicial notice that of the 4,705 votes cast in the mayoral race, Ladie Jack received 2,285 votes, and Mudge Samuel received 2,132 votes. The difference in votes for Ladie Jack and Samuel was 153, i.e., 3.25% of the votes cast. Under Section 180 of the Elections Act, Samuel requested that the CEO re-count the votes for the Majuro mayor election, and under Section 188(2) of the Elections Act he requested that the CEO refer to the High Court alleged violations of the rights of voters to vote. The CEO rejected Appellant Samuel’s requests. Samuel claimed the CEO erred in rejections his two requests. The Court, however, concluded that CEO did not err in rejecting Samuel’s request for a re-count under Section 180 because Samuel had failed to show that a re-count would address any of the issues he raised or that there was a “substantial possibility” the election results would be affected by a re-count. Second, the Court concluded that the CEO did not err in rejecting Samuel’s referral of alleged violation of the rights of voters to vote, because Samuel had failed to show the CEO erred in refusing to refer to the Court violations of the right of “a person” to vote. Section 188(2) applies to the rights of “a person” not the rights of “voters” or a group of persons. In neither case did Samuel show the CEO abused or erroneously exercised his discretion.
  4. Highland Floating Rate Opportunities Fund, et al. v. Dryships Inc., et al., CA 2017-198 (09/27/18): The Court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of standing, holding that with the re-domiciling and subsequent reorganization of the corporate debtor UDW and the discharge of UDW’s loans, the plaintiff lenders lost their status as creditors of UDW and, therefore, no longer had standing to sue UDW’s officers and directors for alleged fraudulent conveyances that gutted UDW of cash to pay the loans. Additionally, the Court rejected the plaintiff creditors’ assertion that the Business Corporations Act, Section 128(5), preserved their creditor rights as UDW creditors indefinitely after UDW re-domiciled from the Marshall Islands to the Caymen Islands.  The Court ruled that although the mere re-domiciling did not extinguish the plaintiffs’ creditor rights in UDW, corporate actions taken by UDW 18 months later under the Cayman Islands insolvency laws could, and did, extinguish their creditor rights as part of a restructuring.
  5.  Akhmedova v Akhmedov, et al., (1) CA 2018-160 (11/02/18): This is an action for the enforcement of a foreign money judgment.  The petitioner, Akhmedova, is seeking enforcement an English court’s money judgment against her former husband, Akmedov, and others.  The Court in an order granting and denying motions to dismiss concluded as follows: (1) it had personal jurisdiction over two foreign corporations that registered as RMI foreign maritime entities and used their status as such to avoid the payment of the foreign money judgment; (2) it did not have personal jurisdiction over a third corporation and Akhmedov, a non-resident; and (3) the foreign money judgment was not a judgment for marital support or a penalty.
  6. Dieron v. Star Trident XII, LLC, (1), CA 2017-245 (11/15/18): This is an action by a Filipino seafarer for personal injuries suffered in the course of his employment upon a vessel registered in the RMI.  The seafarer sued the vessel owner but not the vessel manager with whom he had signed a contract to work on the vessel.  The employment contract with the vessel manager contains an arbitration clause and a choice of law cause.  The vessel manager moved to intervene to enforce the arbitration clause and the choice of law clause.  The Court granted the vessel manager’s motion to intervene.  The vessel manager’s and vessel owner’s motions to compel arbitration and stay the matter remained pending.
  7. Dieron v. Star Trident XII, LLC, (2), CA 2017-245 (11/23/18):  In the above action by a Filipino seafarer for personal injuries, the Court granted the vessel and the vessel manager’s motion to compel arbitration and stay the matter under under seafarer’s contract with the vessel manager to work on the vessel.

2019

  1. Akhmedova v. Akhmedov, et al. (2), CA 2018-169 (9/17/19): The petitioner, Akhmedova, filed this action against her former husband, Akhmedov, and corporate respondents for the enforcement of two English money judgments dividing their marital assets. On motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court dismissed the case as to Akhmedov and two corporate respondents. As to two of the remaining corporate respondents, Straight Establishment (“Straight”) and Qubo 2 Establishment (“Qubo 2”), the petitioner filed a motion for summary judgment. As to Qubo 2, the Court denied the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, finding Qubo 2 had not received sufficient service under the Uniform Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act, 30 MIRC Chp. 4 (“UFMJRA”), or under the due process clause of the Constitution. However, as to Straight, the Court granted the motion for summary judgment, awarding the petitioner judgment against Straight in the amount of GBP £125,569,492, fees, costs, and interest under the two English money judgments. In this connection, the Court found that the two English money judgments were “foreign money judgments” for purposes of UFMJRA Sections 402-204 and were not subject to non-recognition under the mandatory or discretionary grounds for non-recognition under Section 405.