By: L.N. Reklai
August 7, 2017 (Koror, Palau) Palau Appellate Court reversed Trial Court’s decision in a civil appeal case ruling that said Koror State Legislature had no standing to sue Koror State Public Land Authority (KSPLA), Koror Planning Commission (KPC) and Palau Sea Ventures Inc. (PSV) for leasing two lots at Fisheries area to private company that were reserved for public use by law.
Koror State Legislature brought a suit against KSPLA, KPC and PSV when KSPLA leased one lots at Fisheries area to Palau Sea Ventures and KPC approved PSV’s permit to construct a fence and a parking lot. The suit claimed that the issuance of lease and building permit were invalid because they violate “Public Benefit Law”.
Trial Court ruled that Koror State Legislature had no standing to sue because “it could not demonstrate injury in fact”. It added that “constitutional standing to sue requires that plaintiff show three elements including “injury in fact”.
KSPLA and PSV argued the court had no jurisdiction over the claims because KSL cannot show that it will be “injured”.
KSL argued that it has been injured when “its powers to regulate land use has been nullified by defendants actions”.
Appellate Court essentially ruled that the standard applied by Trial Court to determine that KSL has no standing is based erroneously on U.S. Constitution which is very different from Palau Constitution in how it defines the court jurisdiction.
Palau Constitution Article X, Section 5 defines judicial powers to “extend to all matters of law and equity”. U.S. Constitution Article III, Section limits jurisdiction of its federal courts to “cases and controversies” and this is where the requirement for requiring “injury” comes from according to decision.
Appellate Court added that since Gibbons v. ROP case, courts decisions have moved away from the “very liberal approach” of the “extremely broad language of the Palau Constitution” and replaced by “formal requirements” taken from U.S. case law.
Appellate Court also overrule portions of any prior cases that state that court jurisdiction is limited to only those plaintiffs that can demonstrate injury, causality and redressability.
The decision affirmed that KSL’s claims fall within the constitutional jurisdiction of the courts and KSL has standing to sue. On other claims made by KSL, the Appellate Court did not address as they were not presented to this court. [/restrict]