FSM Supreme Appellate Court publicly admonishes an attorney practicing in Pohnpei

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press


December 2, 2020

Pohnpei—A panel of three justices serving on the FSM Supreme Court’s Appellate Division issued an extraordinarily rare public admonishment of an attorney licensed to practice law before the Court.  The Court admonished Yoslyn G. Sigrah, Esq., for her actions related to a filing she made on behalf of her clients, requesting a rehearing of an appeal in a collection action filed against her client by the FSM Development Bank. 

Sigrah’s clients in this particular case are not germane to reporting on the Court’s admonishment and will not be named here.

The FSM Supreme Court initially ruled against Sigrah’s clients, and they appealed.  The Appeals Court upheld the initial ruling. In 2019, Sigrah filed a request for rehearing of the ruling of the Appeals Court based on what she claimed was information the Court had not considered. According to the public admonishment, in support of the petition for rehearing, Sigrah submitted “what purported to be an adopted 2015 Congress resolution that asked the FSM Development Bank for a temporary moratorium on mortgage foreclosures.”  In fact, this was “only a proposed version of a resolution.”  The “actual adopted resolution, FSM Congress Resolution 19-129, 19th Congress., 2d regular session (2015), [merely] asked ‘the President to look into the FSM Development Bank to address the concerns of our citizens, and report back to Congress before the next Special Session in November 2015.’”

Secondly, and possibly more problematic, Sigrah never served opposing counsel a copy of her clients’ petition for rehearing, “although a certificate of service attesting to service was attached to the filed rehearing petition.”

The Appeals Court was stern in its admonishment.

“The respondents' counsel may have some excuse for misleading the court with an unadopted Congress resolution, but, since respondents' counsel is resident on Pohnpei, it should have been a simple matter for

her to obtain an accurate copy from the Congress office,” the Court said.

“The failure to serve the rehearing petition on opposing counsel, however, falls well below the conduct that we expect from counsel that appear(s) before us. A false statement (such as the certificate of service) to a tribunal does not display the candor that is required of counsel…It is a lapse that cannot be tolerated.”

Because the Plaintiff in the case, the FSM Development Bank, had not ACTUALLY received notice that Sigrah had filed a request for a rehearing, it did not have an opportunity to respond to it. Though in such matters, a party is not required to respond to such a filing, it is their right.  In this case, the Bank didn’t even know anything about the reconsideration until the Appellate Court issued a ruling affirming its initial opinion on the appeal.  It did so even though it had been provided with incomplete and inaccurate information on the purported Congress resolution.

The Appellate Court consisted of Associate Justice Larry Wentworth, and Specially Assigned Justices Cyprian J. Manmaw, of the Yap State Supreme Court, and Mayceleen J.D. Anson, of the Pohnpei Supreme Court.

Word in the legal profession is that within the last several months the FSM Supreme Court has begun scrutinizing certificates of service provided by attorneys and trial counselors, specifically whether or not those certificates are accurate and true, that an opposing party has, in fact, been properly served.  It’s unclear whether the Court’s public admonishment of attorney Yoslyn Sigrah for her conduct was the first of its kind, but, clearly, it may not be the last.    

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