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Laws of South Pacific Island Nations: Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Guide to legal materials for South Pacific Island Nations available at UH Manoa.

Court Structure

Supreme Court

Under Article XI of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation. It has original and exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving disputes between states, foreign officials, admiralty and maritime cases, FSM Constitution, national laws or treaties and other domestic laws.   The Supreme Court has both a Trial and an Appellate Division and may have inferior courts established by statute.

State Courts

In Chuuk, the Chuuk State Supreme Court has constitutional jurisdiction to review the actions of any state administrative agency, and decide all relevant questions of law, interpret constitutional and statutory provisions and determine the meaning or applicability of the terms of an agency action.  See, Art. VII of the Chuuk Constitution.

In Kosrae, The judicial power of the State is vested in the Kosrae State Court and such inferior courts as may be created by law.  The judiciary interprets the constitution and laws of the state.  The decisions of the Kosrae State Court are appealable to the Appellate Division of the FSM Supreme Court as stated in Art. VI, Sect. 6, of the Kosrae Constitution.  See, Art. VI of the Kosrae Constitution.

In Pohnpei, Article 10 of the State Constitution vests Pohnpei's judicial power in the Pohnpei Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as may be established by statute.   The Pohnpei Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and up to four Associate Justices. The Supreme Court is divided into a Trial and Appellate Division.   Each justice of the Pohnpei Supreme Court is a member of both the Trial Division and the Appellate Division.   A single justice may hear a case in the Trial Division but no less the three may form an Appellate panel. The trial justice must not sit on appeal.  

In Yap, the State Court may have a Chief Justice and at least two Associate Justices.   The State Court also has a Trial and Appellate Division.   Just as in Pohnpei's case, one judge may sit for the Trial Division but not less than three for appeals.   The Trial Division has original jurisdiction and the Appellate Division has jurisdiction to hear all cases heard in the Trial Division.   Justices of the State Court are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the legislature, and serve for six years.   Yap law also provides for a court in each municipality.   The courts are presided over by judges knowledgeable in custom with an aim to settle minor disputes arising in the municipality before it gets to the State Courts.   The Trial Division of the State Court can order a case to be transferred to it if it considers the municipal court incapable of handling it.

Chuuk

Chuuk State has its own constitutional government with three co-equal branches of government consisting of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor are the leaders of the Executive Branch and have the primary duty of executing the laws and administering state government services.

Kosrae

Kosrae State has its own constitutional government with three co-equal branches of government consisting of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Executive Branch is headed by a Governor and Lt. Governor who appoint their own cabinet members and are primarily responsible for executing the laws and administering state government services.

Pohnpei

Pohnpei State has its own constitutional government with three co-equal branches of government consisting of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.  The Pohnpei Constitution also upholds, respects, and protects the customs and traditions of the traditional kingdoms of Pohnpei.

Laws

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) was part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) until 1978 and became an independent country in 1979.  The FSM is an independent sovereign island nation consisting of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. Palikir is the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia located on the island of Pohnpei.  The flag, adopted in 1978, is in the colors of the UN flag. The light blue also represents the Pacific Ocean. In an echo of U.S. heraldic practice, the stars represent the entities that make up the state, in this case, the four islands, arranged like the points of the compass.

The FSM legal system is a mixed legal system of common and customary law.

Yap