Legal Memorandum: Admiralty and Federal Diversity Jurisdiction in MH

Issue: Would the Marshall Islands High Court have subject matter jurisdiction over a defendant’s status as a non-resident domestic in an admiralty manner?

Area of Law: Admiralty & Maritime Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Subject matter jurisdiction; Admiralty jurisdiction; Federal diversity jurisdiction
Jurisdiction: Marshall Islands
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: The Judiciary Act 1983; 27 MIRC § 211(2); Admiralty Jurisdiction Act 1986; 27 MIRC § 603(1), § 603(7)
Date: 12/01/2013

The Judiciary Act 1983 explicitly grants the High Court subject matter jurisdiction “in probate, admiralty and maritime matters, and the adjudication of title to land or any interest in land.”  27 MIRC § 211(2). 

Additionally, the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act 1986 provides:

(1)               The admiralty jurisdiction of the [High] Court shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law, include jurisdiction to hear and determine any of the following questions or claims . . . :

. . .

(d)       any claim for damage received by a ship;

(e)        any claim for damage done by a ship.; [or]

. . .

(g)        any claim for loss of or damage to goods carried in a ship . . . .


27 MIRC § 603(1).  The Act further establishes that the court’s admiralty jurisdiction over these kinds of claims applies “in relation to all ships whether registered in any port in the Republic or outside and wherever the residence or domicile of their owners may be.”  Id. § 603(7) (emphasis added).  This broad grant of admiralty jurisdiction upon the court establishes subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiffs’ claims for damages caused when a defendant’s ship collided with its vessel.  A defendant’s status as a non-resident domestic Marshall Islands corporation is immaterial to the court’s subject matter jurisdiction.  See, e.g., In Re Balfour MacLaine Int’l Ltd., 85 F.3d 68, 75-76 (2d Cir. 1996) (demonstrating that admiralty jurisdiction is distinct from federal diversity […]

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