Palau 1981 Constitution (reviewed 1992)


Section 1

The judicial power of Palau shall be voted in a unified judiciary, consisting of a Supreme Court, a National Court, and such inferior courts of limited jurisdiction as may be established by law. All courts except the Supreme Court may be divided geographically and functionally as provided by law, or judicial rules not inconsistent with law.

Section 2

The Supreme Court is a Court of Record consisting of an appellate division and a trial division. The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief of Justice and not less than three (3) nor more than six (6) Associate Justices, all of whom shall be members of both divisions. All appeals shall be heard by at least three justices. Matters before the trial division may be heard by one justice. No justice may hear or decide an appeal of a matter heard by him in the trial division.

Section 3

If the Chief Justice is unable to perform his duties, he shall appoint an Associate Justice to act in his place. If the office of Chief Justice becomes vacant and the Chief Justice has failed to appoint an Acting Chief Justice to act in his place, the President shall appoint an Associate Justice to act as Chief Justice until the vacancy is filled or the Chief Justice resumes his duties.

Section 4

The National Court shall consist of a presiding judge and such other judges as may be provided by law.

Section 5

The judicial power shall extend to all matters in law and equity. The trial division of the Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all matters affecting Ambassadors, other Public Ministers and Consuls, admiralty and maritime cases, and those matters in which the national government or a state government is a party. In all other cases, the National Court shall have original and concurrent jurisdiction with the trial division of the Supreme Court.

Section 6

The appellate division of the Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to review all decisions of the trial division and all decisions of lower courts.

Section 7

The Judicial Nominating Commission shall consist of seven (7) members, one of whom shall be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who shall act as Chairman. The Bar shall elect three (3) of its members to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission and the President shall appoint three (3) citizens who are not members of the Bar. The Judicial Nominating Commission shall meet upon the call of the Chairman and prepare and submit to the President a list of seven (7) nominees for the positions of justice and judge. A new list shall be submitted every year.

Section 8

No person shall be eligible to hold judicial office in the Supreme Court or National Court unless he has been admitted to practice law before the highest court of a state or country in which he is admitted to practice for at least five (5) years preceding his appointment. Any justice of the Supreme Court or judge of the National Court who becomes a candidate for an elective office shall, upon filing for such office, forfeit his judicial office.

Section 9

All justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the National Court shall hold their offices during good behavior. They shall be eligible for retirement upon attaining the age of sixty-five (65) years.

Section 10

A justice of the Supreme Court may be impeached only for the commission of treason, bribery, other high crimes, or improper practices, or on the grounds of his inability to discharge the functions of his office upon a vote of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. The judges of the National Court and the inferior courts may be impeached by a majority vote of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. During his impeachment or removal proceedings, a justice or judge may not exercise the power of his office. A justice or judge shall forfeit his office upon conviction of a felony or any high crime.

Section 11

The justices and judges shall receive compensation as prescribed by law. Such compensation shall not be diminished during their term of office.

Section 12

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be the administrative head of the unified judicial system. He may assign judges from one geographical department or functional division of a court to another department or division of that court and he may assign judges for temporary service in another court. The Chief Justice shall appoint with the approval of the Associate Justices, an administrative director to supervise the administrative operation of the judicial system.

Section 13

The Chief Justice shall prepare and submit through the President to the Olbiil Era Kelulau an annual consolidated budget for the entire unified judicial system. The national government shall bear the total cost of the system unless the Olbiil Era Kelulau requires reimbursement of appropriate portions of such cost by the state governments.

Section 14

The Supreme Court shall promulgate rules governing the administration of the courts, legal and judicial professions, and practice and procedure in civil and criminal matters.

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