Recent Supreme Court Decisions

  1. Yandal Inv. Pty Ltd and Tahlia Family Trust v. White Rivers Gold LTd and Mason, SCT Civil 11-03 (Jan 25, 2012): Order Granting in Part and Denying in part Motion to Dismiss Appeal.  The Supreme Court concluded that, unless the High Court directs entry of judgment pursuant to MIRCP, Rule 54(b), the orders appealed from (with exception of the High Court’s May 19, 2011 “stay order”) are not “final decisions,” and the Supreme Court lack jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from those orders at this time.  The Supreme Court also concluded that the High Court’s May 19, 2011 “stay order” is immediately appealable as an exception to the “final judgment” rule under Moses H. Cone or , alternatively, is an appealable “collateral order” over which the court can assert jurisdiction.  Finally, the Court concluded it did not have pendent appellate jurisdiction over the interlocutory orders appealed from.
  2. Niedenthal v CEO, SCT Civil 15-01 (Jun 8, 2015): Order Denying “Motion for Stay” pending appeal.  Appellant, CEO, has not demonstrated it will suffer irreparable harm. Additionally, the Court finds that any harm to Appellant does not outweigh the harm to Appellee, Niedenthal, that the public interest favors neither party, and that Appellant has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood or probability of success on the issues raised in its underlying appeal. Therefore, Appellant’s “motion for stay” is DENIED.
  3. CEO v. Simeon, et al., SCT Civil 11-01 (Oct 12, 2015): Opinion finding that the Marshall Islands Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) does not apply to the Chief Electoral Officer’s new definition of the “date of election”; therefore the the High Court’s decision is AFFIRMED. Prior to the 2007 general election, the CEO had accepted postal ballots postmarked in the United States on the “date of the election” — a day after the election in the Marshall Islands, given that the United States is on the other side of the dateline. For the 2007 general election, the CEO rejected postal ballots postmarked in the United States on the “date of the election,” having re-defined “date of the election” for postal ballots as the day of election in the Marshall Islands. Appellants did not argue that the CEO’s interpretation was not reasonable, but instead they argued that in adopting the new interpretation, the CEO violated the APA’s requirements (notice-and-comment period, Cabinet approval, and publication of effective rules, all of which the CEO did not do), so their ballots should be counted. The Supreme Court, citing Bien v. MI Chief Electoral Officer, 1 MILR 94 (S. Ct. Civil 90-01), held that where the Elections and Referenda Act sets forth a specific and distinct procedure that the CEO must follow for the decision at issue, the CEO must follow the Elections and Referenda Act, not the APA. As appellants did not argue whether the CEO complied the requirements of the Election and Referenda Act, the Supreme Court rejected the appellants’ limited argument made on appeal that the CEO did not comply of the APA.
  4. In Re: the Citizenship of Sampang, SCT Civil 14-02 (Oct 27, 2015): Opinion affirming the High Court’s judgment that Sampang is qualified to register as a citizen of the Marshall Islands: Sampang met the three year residency required by the Constitution; the High Court did not err in refusing to give deference to the late-filed Certificate for/against Citizenship by the Minister of Justice; and Republic waived its argument that the “R-1” visa is required to commence the three-year residency period by not raising the issue at trial.
  5. Zedkaia and Toring v. Marshalls Energy Co., Inc., et al., SCT Civil 12-01 (November 18, 2015): Opinion affirming the High Court’s summary judgment that the Government, not the traditional owners of Lotola Weto, Utuwe Weto, and Lobotin Weto, Dalap Island, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, owned the land reclaimed by the Government, upon which the Government erected structures include a fuel farm. The High Court held that (1) to the extent the disputed land was created by the Government on submerged areas below the high water mark, the Government owns that land, and (2) to the extent the disputed land was not below the high water mark when the Government entered the land, Plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred.
  6. Chubb Ins. v Eleni, et al., SCT Civ 16-02 (June 6, 2017): Opinion on a Removed Questions, holding (i) that the High Court need not defer to the Hong Kong limitation suit and the limitation fund constituted under the “Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976,” and that defendants can avail themselves of the procedures provided by the Marshall Islands Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims Act , Marshall Islands Revised Code Title 47, Sections 501, et seq., should they choose to limit liability in the High Court proceedings.
  7. Hitto and Emil v Toka and Caleb, SCT Civil 15-03, and Hitto and Emil v Bejang, et al., SCT Civil 15-04 (July 28, 2017): Opinion affirming High Court decisions.
  8. Samuel v Almen, SCT Civil 17-02 (September 20, 2017): Order Denying Writ of Mandamus.   The Supreme Court found that the evil to be avoided by requiring the disqualification of judges for previously having “played a role in the case” (Article VI, Section 1(6) of the Constitution and the Judiciary Act 1983, as amended, 27 MIRC, Chapter 2, Section 267) is to prevent conflicts of interest and bias which might influence impartial decision making. Petitioner has not made a “clear showing” of actual bias or conflict of interest by the trial judge. Likewise, the Supreme Court found that  the mere administration of an oath by a judicial officer to the declared winner of an election under protest, without more, does not give rise to any implication of bias or conflict of interest.
  9. Sammons v Economou and Dryships, Inc., SCT Civil 17-04 (November 15, 2017): Order Denying Petitioner for Writ of Mandamus. The Supreme Court found that the trial judge did not have a “non-discretionary” duty under the Constitution (see Cont. Art. II, Sec. 4(1) and Sec. 14(1)) or the MIRCP, Rule 1, to allow telephonic appearance, so as to support a writ of mandamus.
  10. Samsung v Focus and Karamehmet, SCT Civil 18-02 (May 28, 2018): Order Denying Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal.  The Supreme Court, as a single judge subject to full panel review, denied Samsung’s request for an injunction to restrain defendant Karamehmet, pending appeal, from transferring any shares in Focus, from Focus transferring on record ownership of its shares, and from Focus transferring any of its assets, as Samsung had failed to show a reasonable probability of the court having in personam jurisdiction over Karamehmet.
  11. Samsung v Focus and Karamehmet, SCT Civil 18-02 (June 13, 2018): Order for Injunction Pending Appeal. The Supreme Court, as a single judge subject to full panel review, granted Samsung’s request for an injunction to restrain Focus, pending appeal, from transferring its assets, other than in the ordinary course of business, including shares of Genel Energy plc.  The Supreme Court found (i) that there was probable jurisdiction over Focus, (ii) that Samsung had made a showing of “irreparable harm”, (iii) that the issues raised are so substantial, difficult and doubtful as to make them fair grounds for litigation and thus for more deliberate investigation, and (iv) that the “balance of the hardships” favored Samsung.
  12. Samsung v Focus and Karamehmet, SCT Civil 18-02 (June 20, 2018): Order Vacating Preliminary Injunction.  The Supreme Court, siting as a full panel, vacated the single judge order granting Focus an injunction pending appeal.
  13. Asignacion v Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrgesellschaft MbH & Cie Kg, SCT Civil 16-03 (June 20, 2018): Decision on Appeal.  The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court decision that the case is barred by the statute of limitations.  “Asignacion admits that he failed to file suit within the two-year RMI statute of limitations.  His sole argument is that the statute is equitably tolled based on his prosecution of the suit in Louisiana. ‘Equitable tolling applies when the plaintiff is prevented from asserting a claim by wrongful conduct on the part of the defendant, or when extraordinary circumstances beyond the plaintiff’s control made it impossible to file a claim on time.’ Stoll v. Runyon, 165 F. 3d 1238, 1242 (9th Cir. 1999).”
  14. Chubb, et al., v Eleni Maritime Ltd and Empire Bulkers Ltd. SCT Civil 18-05 (July 18, 2018): Order Denying Request to Vacate and/or Modify “Order Dismissing Interlocutory Appeal.” The Supreme Court held that the High Court’s partial summary judgment order is not a “final decision” from which an appeal lies as of right. That order is interlocutory. Marshall Islands precedent has held the Supreme Court is without power to entertain an interlocutory appeal absent certification by the High Court pursuant to MIRCP Rule 54(b ). Certification was not obtained. The Supreme Court was not convinced that the historic admiralty practice of allowing an appeal of a liability determination prior to a trial on the damages issue is part of the “general maritime law.” Appellant flatly asserts, without citation of authority, that 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3) is a codification of the general maritime law of the United States which this Court is to follow under 47 MIRC 113. Appellant argues 47 MIRC 113 makes no distinction between substantive and procedural “general maritime law.” But, the very definition of”general maritime law” suggests that distinction. The “general maritime law” is a term of art which denotes federal judge made maritime law. See, e.g., Coto v. J Ray McDermott, S.A., 709 So.2d 1023, 1028 (La. Ct. App. 1998) (“The General Maritime Law … of the United States is a branch of federal common law that furnishes the rule of decision in admiralty and maritime cases in the absence of preemptive legislation.”) (citing Thomas J.Schoenbaum, Admiralty & Maritime Law§ 5.1). Secondary sources indicate that the term “general maritime law” refers to “substantive” rules of maritime law. See Robert Force, Admiralty and Maritime Law,Federal Judicial Center, 2013, at pp. 22-23; William Tetley, Q.C., Glossary of Maritime Law Terms, 2nd Ed. 2004 (citing Tetley, “The General Maritime Law – The Lex Maritima” (1994) 20 Syracuse J. Int’l L. & Com. 105 -145 at pp. 121-128 and RMS Titanic, Inc. v. Haver, 171 F.3d 943, 960, 1999 AMC 1330, 1344 (4th Cir. 1999)).
  15. MYJAC Fdtn, Panama v Arce and Alfaro, SCT Civil 17-06 (July 30, 2018): Opinion. The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s order denying two Costa Rican defendants’ motion to set aside a default judgment. The Supreme Court held that the complaint’s explicit allegations of fraud against a Polish lawyer were sufficient to support a reasonable inference that the two Costa Rican defendants had also engaged in fraudulent or deceitful behavior affecting two RMI corporations, i.e., persons, thereby bringing them within the reach of the RMI’s long-arm jurisdiction statute, 27 MIRC 251(1)(n).  The Supreme Court also held that the Costa Rican defendants failed to show that they did not understand the language of the summons and complaint, both of which were written in English, and that neither the method of service nor the use of the English language in the summons and complaint violated Costa Rican laws.
  16. Mongaya v AET MCV BETA LLC, et al., SCT Civil 17-03 (August 10, 2018): Opinion.  The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s Order Granting Defendants’ Motions to Stay Action Pending Arbitration. Prior to working on a vessel registered in the RMI, a Filipino sailor signed a Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Contract (POEA), which required the sailor, if injured, to participate in arbitration in the Philippines. The vessel owner and vessel operator were not signatories on the POEA contract. After the sailor was injured, the defendants sought to enforce the arbitration provision. At the time of the High Court decision, the RMI had acceded to but had not yet enacted the Convention of the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The Supreme Court held that non-signatories can enforce a contractual arbitration provision under the doctrine of equitable estoppel: (1) if there is a close relationship between the parties involved; (2) if there is a relationship between the alleged wrong and the non-signatories’ obligations and duties; and (3) if the claims are intertwined with the underlying contractual obligations. The Supreme Court also upheld that the choice of law provision in the POEA contract.
  17. Mongaya v. AET MCV BETA LLC, et al. SCT Civil 17-03 (September 5, 2018): Order Deny Motion for Reconsideration.
  18. Chubb, et al., v Eleni Maritime Ltd and Empire Bulkers Ltd. SCT Civil 18-05 (September 5, 2018): Order Denying Request to Vacate and/or Modify “Order Dismissing Interlocutory Appeal.”
  19. Samsung v Focus and Karamehmet, SCT Civil 18-02 (September 6, 2018): Amended Opinion. The Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s order dismissing Samsung’s action for enforcement of a foreign judgment.  The High Court dismissed the enforcement action as (i) it did not have personal jurisdiction over the debtor, Karamehmet, nor (ii) was his property, shares of stock in Focus, located in the Republic.  Mere ownership of shares in a Marshall Islands corporation does not constitute ownership of property in the Marshall Islands.  In this connection, the Supreme Court held the High Court did not err by incorporating Section 8-112 of the Uniform Commercial Code in the common law of the Republic.  Section 8-112, in relevant part, provides that the “interest of a debtor in a certificated security may be reached by a creditor only by actual seizure of the security certificate by the officer making the attachment or levy.”  This is, the situs of certificated shares or stock is where the certificated shares are located.