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Laws of South Pacific Island Nations: Palau

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

About Palau

The Republic of Palau's National Congress is known as the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK), which means "House of Whispered Decisions." The Congress consists of two houses which sit for four-year terms. The House of Delegates has 16 members, one from each state. The Senate has 9 members whose representation is based on district population.

The Executive Branch of the government of Palau consists of the President, the Vice President, and the Council of Chiefs. Assisting the top executives are the cabinet ministers and their supporting staff. The Vice President serves as one of the ministers.

The Council of Chiefs is composed of one traditional chief from each of the Republic's states. The Council advises the President on matters concerning traditional laws, customs and their relationship to the Constitution and the laws of Palau.

Books in UH Manoa Law Library

Laws

The flag of Palau is light blue with a large yellow disk shifted slightly to the hoist side. The blue color represents the ocean. The disk represents the moon. Palauans consider the full moon to be the optimum time for human activity; it is also considered a symbol of peace, love, and tranquility.

The Palau legal system is a mixed legal system of civil, common, and customary law.

Courts

Supreme Court

Palau's Supreme Court was created in 1981, pursuant to Article X of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is a Court of Record consisting of an appellate division and a trial division. The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief Justice and not less than three (3) nor more than six (6) Associate Justices, all of whom shall be members of both divisions. All appeals shall be heard by at least three justices. Matters before the trial division may be heard by one justice. No justice may hear or decide an appeal of a matter heard by him in the trial division.  The appellate division of the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review all decisions of the trial division and all decisions of lower courts.

National Court

The National Court has not been active since 1987 when Judge Frederick O'Brien, the last presiding judge, was reassigned to the Supreme Court.

Court of Common Pleas

The Court of Common Pleas was established in 1982 by the Olbiil Era Kelulau to handle common civil and criminal cases. See 4 PNC §§ 203-207. The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction to hear civil cases worth $10,000 or less (except adjudication of land interests) and all divorce and child support cases regardless of the amount in controversy. Appeals from the Court of Common Pleas are filed directly with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Land Court

The Land Court was established in 1996 by act of the Olbiil Era Kelulau and vested with civil jurisdiction over civil cases involving the adjudication of title to land or any interest in land. See 4 PNC §§ 203-205, 208. Appeals from the Land Court go directly to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.