A proposal to remove the mandate requiring judges of the Court of Common Pleas to be Palauan citizens has passed the 1st reading in the Senate as bill no: 11-59, introduced by Senator Jonathan Isechal.

The bill states the citizenship requirement will apply only to the Senior Judge but not the Associate Judges to align with “today’s realities.”

The bill findings state that the proposal “permits for a wider pool of candidates.” It says that current law calls for the judges to be qualified Palauan attorneys to fill the vacancies in the judiciary.

“The reality today is that the Republic is faced with a dearth of young Palauans who meet both the citizenship requirement and legal qualification.” Such stiff requirements have kept the posts vacant.

Palau court is short on justices, such as Senior Judge of Court of Common Pleas, Associate Justices of Land Court, and Associate Justice of Appellate Division. Land Court has been short two justices since Justice Salvador Irngeklii and Justice Quay Polloi left. Fewer judges mean many cases will remain unresolved, such as pending land ownership determinations.

The bill also seeks to correct certain laws that have become obsolete by way of newly enacted laws, such as the law requiring the appointment of special judges in murder cases. This law became obsolete when the national constitution was amended to allow for jury trials. RPPL 8-12, which implemented the constitutional mandate, made the law obsolete, but the law has remained in the books regardless. The proposed bill repeals the obsolete law in its entirety.

One of the qualifications of the judges is that he/she has “extensive experience with the Republic of Palau’s judicial system, is familiar with court rules and procedures of the Supreme Court of Palau, understands Palauan customs, and is fluent in both Palauan and English languages.” (By: L.N Reklai)

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