Judge Corderman loses his job in paradise

May 23, 1997


Staff Writer

Former Washington County Circuit Court judge John P. Corderman has been fired from his position as attorney general of Palau, a small island nation in the western Pacific Ocean just east of the Philippines, a Palauan diplomat said.

David Orrukem, charge d'affaires of the Palauan embassy in Washington, D.C., would only confirm the termination Friday, not the reasons or the terms.

The termination is effective June 10, Orrukem said.

Corderman, who was back in Hagerstown this week, could not be reached for comment. Corderman and his wife, Ann, came back to the United States for their son Robert's college graduation and have been seen around town.


An article in Palau's bi-weekly newspaper, Tia Belau, said Corderman was fired eight days after he filed a criminal case against the deputy director of public safety and one day after a planned raid on a series of marijuana farms on the island was aborted.

A memorandum of termination, published in the newspaper article, quoted Salvador Ingereklii, minister of justice, that the office of attorney general "lacked direction and leadership'' under Corderman.

Ironically, another article in the same newspaper notes that Ingereklii also was indicted before the Palau Supreme Court in April on two counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice - in affidavits brought by police officers, drug enforcement officials and Corderman.

But the acting chief justice Jeffrey Beattie declined to issue a warrant for Ingereklii, saying there was no probable cause to believe he committed those crimes, the newspaper article said.

Indeed some Palauan leaders think Corderman may have stepped on some very important toes linked to President Kuniwo Nakamura, the newspaper article said.

The president was out of the country April 2 when Corderman filed the criminal charges of false arrest, assault and battery against Morning Star Olkeriil, deputy police director, the newspaper said.

Olkeriil was promoted to that job by the president, the newspaper article said, despite the fact he was reportedly unqualified.

The newspaper quotes Palauan Chief of Staff Temmy Shmull as saying Corderman was "totally incompetent" in his one year as attorney general.

Corderman left Hagerstown last spring after securing the job he'd read about in a magazine ad.

"Be a lawyer in paradise," was the lead-in line of the ad.

In 1993, Corderman was awarded an annual payment of just under $60,000, or two-thirds of his judicial salary, as a medical disability for a continuing ear-ringing problem.

The ailment stemmed from the December 1989 bombing that seriously injured Corderman, who was a circuit judge at the time.

After leaving the bench, he began practicing law in Hagerstown.

In an interview before he left for Palau, Corderman said the job of attorney general holds a lot of responsibility, particularly because the country only gained its independence in 1994.

He said in that interview that he wasn't aware of a drug problem in Palau but had heard that some citizens party a little strenuously from time to time.

Palau once was owned by Spain, sold to Germany in 1899, ceded to Japan after World War I and taken over by U.S. forces in 1944.

For the next 50 years, Palau was a trusteeship of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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