Palau Court Upholds Freedom of Expression For Political Speech

On June 26, abortion 2012, click Associate Justice Foster issued a 62-page decision upholding Palau’s Constitutional right of free expression in Marbou v. Koror State, Civil Action No. 10-062.  In a landmark decision, the Court held that you cannot be punished in the workplace for openly and publicly supporting a political candidate.  Political campaigning and expressing a political opinion are protected activities under the Palau Constitution.

Koror State Government and Governor Adachi were sued by Alan Marbou, Darvin Inabo, Lamp Minor, Cleoffas Iyar and Misia Orrekum following Adachi’s successful re-election.  Each of these Koror State employees openly supported Adachi’s opponent, Alan Seid, in the 2009 governor’s race and all suffered termination or demotions after the election because of their pro-Seid political support.  The Court found that Governor Adachi’s retaliatory actions violated the law.
Trial testimony revealed that Governor Adachi convened a meeting in the Koror State Assembly hall during the campaign where he informed these Koror State employees and others that they should not be involved in campaigning and should “leave the election” to him because “it is [his] race, not yours.”  After the election, in the same meeting hall, he announced that his sisters and family told him that he had been too “lenient” on those pro-Seid employees and warned that they will “have to resign or cease working here.”   Governor Adachi was also quoted by a reporter making the same threat.  Good for his word, each of these Plaintiffs were later terminated or demoted, suffering pay cuts of up to 25% of their salary.
At the week-long trial, Adachi testified that his adverse employment actions against Plaintiffs were based on his efforts to save money for the Koror State budget, but the Court found his justification unconvincing.  In fact, the Court called Adachi’s excuse a “budget smokescreen” and not credible in light of the fact that he took no action to save the budget with respect to the 300 pro-Adachi Koror State employees.   The Court determined that Governor Adachi impermissibly punished Plaintiffs for political reasons – because they voted for Seid and expressed their political views publicly.
The Court awarded Plaintiffs lost wages and reinstatement of their former positions, along with fringe benefits such as pension, medical, social security payments and unused leave.
by Kassi Berg, Esquire

1 thought on “Palau Court Upholds Freedom of Expression For Political Speech”

  1. Thanks, Kassi, for the report. Indeed this case and decision mean a lot to protect future generations of Palauans and their right to free speech.

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