A proposed bill passed Senate in its 3rd reading seeking to only allow Palauan justices to hear and determine cases involving customary ownership of land or chiefly titles.

The reason cited for prohibiting non-Palauan justices from hearing customary law cases is “while the ability to rely on foreign attorneys’ expertise in certain circumstances is valuable to the Republic, there are nuances inherent in Palauan customary law that are challenging for non-Palauan attorneys to navigate successfully.”

In the Senate committee’s deliberations and interviews, they interviewed former President and attorney Johnson Toribiong on the bill.  Mr. Toribiong reportedly expressed that “the Palauan language was intrinsic to understanding these types of legal issues and that only a Palauan who was immersed in the Palauan culture could successfully decide cases involving the principles and tenets of Palauan traditional law.”

The bill empowers the Chief Justice to appoint temporary judges from other courts to meet the requirements of the bill, as long as they meet the qualifications under the Constitution Article X, Sect. 8.

The bill passed Senate in its 3rd and final reading and was sent to the House for their action. (by: L.N. Reklai)

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