The Supreme Court has dismissed a land lease complaint against Vice President Raynold Oilouch, filed by the Ochedaruchei Clan on Anguar. It has also dismissed the Vice President’s third-party counter-suit against the Clan’s Attorney, Ms. Rachel Dimitruk.
The Court ruled that “each of the Plaintiffs’ claims against the government are barred by sovereign immunity”.
The complaint centers around the signing over of a piece of land on Angaur by the Ochedaruchei Clan and the Children of Orrenges Thomas to the Republic of Palau, which is to be used as a US Aerial Domain Awareness (ADA) site for radar and radio towers. Vice President Raynold Oilouch, who was involved in negotiations for the land lease, allegedly did not reveal the size of the land to be used until the lease agreement was presented to the Ochedaruchei Clan in April 2019.
The complaint was filed against the Vice President in his individual and official capacity, as well as the Republic, for fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, detrimental reliance, and negligent misrepresentation. Attorney Rachel Dimitruk, who filed the complaint, represented the Clan, Obil-Teluk Kamilla Elechesel Kazuo Holder, and Adelbai Ramson Julio.
In response, Vice President Oilouch filed a third-party complaint against Attorney Dimitruk, whom he claims failed to inform her clients about the changes in land size for the ADA site.
The Obil-Teluk Sophia Lei of the Ochedaruchei Clan allegedly signed the lease agreement on April 30, 2019, which granted the Clan $1 million, in exchange for the lease of 271,807 square meters of land, “an area . . . significantly larger than what she had originally anticipated”. Ms. Lei claims that she was pressured to sign the lease agreement at that time because she needed to return to the States for medical treatment.
In response to the complaint against the Vice President in his official capacity, the Supreme Court ruled that the law protects government use of “a discretionary function” when negotiating leases of property.
“The decision by Oilouch to not reveal the final size of the ADA site until May 2019, if true, does not violate any proscribed courses of actions for government actors in negotiating leases,” the Court Order, signed on September 17, says.
The Court Order supports this by stating that negotiating land leases of government land is a government function, and the government’s actions in negotiating the lease were “grounded in social, economic, and political policy”.
The Vice President himself stated that the exact size and location of land which the United States wants for ADA use is not always confirmed immediately, but that the lease agreement was not drawn up until he had met with and discussed the land sizes with lawyers from the Ochedaruchei Clan and the Children of Orrenges Thomas.
In response to the complaint against Mr. Oilouch in an individual capacity as a lawyer, the Court Order states that the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct on which the complaint is based are guidelines, but do not serve as a legal basis for a lawsuit.
“The Model Rules expressly state that violation of the rules does not provide a cause of action against a lawyer,” it says.
The Court also dismissed Vice President Oilouch’s third-party complaint against Attorney Dimitruk, on the grounds that his reasons for the counter-suit are not in line with third-party complaints, which must prove that the third party is liable to the Defendants.
The Court Order dismissing the complaints was signed by Lourdes Materne, Associate Justice of the Palau Supreme Court.