PII in limbo as judge axes hearing

Marshall Islands Journal

Pacific International Inc.’s claim against the FSM government is currently in legal limbo, after an FSM Supreme Court judge abruptly cancelled a scheduled hearing for February 23 and has not issued notice for a new hearing nearly two months later.

At 5:15pm on February 22, FSM Judge Bealeen Carl-Worswick “vacated” a hearing scheduled for the following day, “due to a scheduling conflict.” She said “the court will reschedule this matter by future court order.”

As of this week, eight weeks since the hearing was cancelled, no new hearing date has been scheduled by Carl-Worswick.

A major pending issue is PII’s motion before the judge to put a hold on the litigation and “compel the parties to arbitrate their claims.”

The arbitration motion follows on a 2015 mediation session between the FSM government and PII at which a written agreement was reached to partially settle the dispute over the Chuuk road project based on a conditional payment to PII and then proceeding to binding arbitration. After the agreement was signed, the FSM government said it could not bind the FSM Congress to the agreed-to $2 million payment because the Congress and not the executive branch has authority for spending. Judge Carl-Worswick also rejected a summary judgment motion by PII, saying without the concurrence of both President Peter Christian and the FSM Congress, the mediation agreement was unenforceable.

However, despite this, there was no dispute over the plan to send the dispute to binding arbitration, said PII attorney Thomas Tarpley, who is based in Guam. “The parties agreed that the entire dispute would be submitted to and decided by arbitrators regardless of the settlement terms, which would be addressed post-arbitration,” said PII’s motion to the court to order the dispute to arbitration.

But the FSM Attorney General’s office opposed the move, saying “it does not appear that PII is ready or prepared to proceed to trial. “Instead, it appears appears that PII is again tempting to enforce the terms of the June 3, 2015 document which has previously been presented to and rejected by the court as legally enforceable,” said FSM Assistant Attorney General Craig Reffner.

Without a court date, PII’s motion is languishing two months since the judge cancelled the status conference and four months since the motion was filed.