Associate Justice John K. Rechucher accused Moses Uludong of Tia Belau of false reporting an article entitled “APPELLATE JUSTICE ACTING AS A LAWYER IN A TRIAL”, Volume 27, Issue 33 on April 26, 2018.
According to Mr. John Rechucher’s, Mr. Uludong printed an article containing “many false statements about Mr. John K. Rechucher’s involvement in the trial proceedings in the case of Takesi Ito, Dirruchei Temengil, Uchularak Tkel vs. Dirraibuuch Magdalina Imetuker, Ebil ra Otong Ereong Remeliik and John K. Rechucher, Civil Action No. 15-007,”
Such article prompted Mr. Rechucher to seek to clear himself of “false statements,” in a response to Island Times. In his statement, Mr. Rechucher stated that he believes “journalism, a profession in which Moses Uludong is engaged in, while they have constitutionally protected rights to publish news, their rights have limitations and responsibilities to the constitutionally protected rights of citizens and public.”
“The essential obligations of a journalist engaged in gathering, editing and commenting news are (a) to respect truth whatever be the consequence to himself, because of the right of the public to know the truth; (b) to report only on facts of which he knows the origin; not to suppress essential information nor alter texts and documents; (c) not to use unfair methods to obtain news; and, (d) to restrict themselves to the respect of privacy of another person,” emphasized Mr. Rechucher.
Furthermore, he expressed, “the article published in Tia Belau contains many false statements, false and unfair insinuations and connotations.”
As an example Mr. Rechucher stated that “Tia Belau first said, Associate Justice Rechucher is one of the three (3) justices of the newly created Palau Appellate Court, the highest court of the country. And he is also one of the defendants but also a counsel for the defense in the case on trial this week in the judiciary building in Medalaii.”
Mr. Rechucher asserted that this statement is false. “The truth,” stated Rechucher, “is Mr. Moses Uludong, as a counsel before for the plaintiffs, sued Ebil ra Otong Ereong Remeliik, Dirraibuuch Magdalina Imetuker, and Mr. Rechucher himself.”
Additionally, Rechucher stated that when he was appointed to the bench, he had asked Mr. Uludong to dismiss him as one of the defendants and that Uludong has assured him that he will dismiss him. According to Rechucher, Uludong had informed the court on two separate status conferences on the case that he will dismiss Mr. Rechucher as one of the defendants.
So, at the early stage of the case, Rechucher said he sometimes received court’s order discussing what happened in the status conferences. He said he paid less attention to them because he was assured several times by Uludong that Uludong will dismiss Rechucher as defendant. About one (1) week before the set date for trial on April 09, 2018, Rechucher said received a notice of trial which surprised him very much.
Rechucher expressed that as a result he had to defend himself and had call his witnesses, present exhibits and arguments to defend himself against plaintiffs’ claim. Furthermore, he said, Uludong and his clients didn’t want Rechucher to be dismissed out of the case, and yet they didn’t want him to defend himself.
Rechucher emphasized that he was a defendant and he had to speak, call witnesses, and present exhibits for his defense and that he made it clear several times during the trial that he was a defendant. According to Rechucher, the court also made this very clear that Rechucher was in the trial as defendant, not as counsel for defense, and he was there as defendant John K. Rechucher, not as a justice.
Rechucher also stressed that the witnesses Iyekar, Paula and Iwong Zakaziro were his witnesses as a defendant and not witnesses for the defense and the statement made in Tia Belau article saying Justice called defense witnesses are false statements as Rechucher was calling witnesses as a defendant himself and not Justice of the court.
Furthermore, Rechucher objected to the statement in Tia Belau article which stated that the presence of Rechucher and his status as a judge at the trial scared the plaintiffs due to his possible influence over the judge of the case from lower court.
Rechucher said this is clearly a false statement attempting to show the mindset of the plaintiffs at the time but in fact, before the trial the plaintiffs have asked the court for more time to find an attorney. According to Rechucher, initially the court was reluctant because it had already granted the plaintiffs’ request for more time to find an attorney at three time. The court had then agreed to give the plaintiff one more week to find an attorney according to Mr. Rechucher.
“Tia Belau, while reporting the news, failed to observe its essential obligations as a journalist,” stated Rechucher
He further added that the same article in Tia Belau also contains certain unrelated matters, one relates to a contract for work on the proceedings of 1979 Palau Constitutional Convention and the other relates to a contract to restore part of Ngardmau Japanese Dock. These two (2) matters happened more than twenty (20) year ago and were fully resolved in court, according to Rechucher. “Their records exist and are accessible to the public,” stated Mr. Rechucher.
“The article aims to tarnish my dignity, integrity, and reputation, and it also has certain negative impact of the integrity and dignity of our judiciary,” added Rechucher.
“Of course, said Rechucher, “I could have hired a lawyer to represent myself in the Takeshi Ito case.” However, he said the case involves family members among whom his father is an ochell. He said the members lived together and interacted in a very close and loving relationship for over hundred years. As a member of that family, this case is very close to his heart. He has special knowledge of the history of his family which makes him feel more secure to defend himself in this case pro se due to such a short notice of trial date.