Thursday, August 30, 2012

 

Hawaiian Homestead case scheduled to resume Friday in Circuit Court


by Larry Geller

The Kalima v. State of Hawaii class action suit was filed on behalf of the 2,700 people who filed claims with the Native Hawaiian Claims Panel between 1991 and 1995. Native Hawaiian plaintiffs sought relief of breach of trust by the state in the administration of the Hawaiian Homelands program.

It was filed by public interest attorneys Thomas Grande and Carl M. Varady in 1999 in Circuit Court and argued all the way to the state Supreme Court and back. Background and history for this case can be found here. From that web page:

The trial for the liability portion of Subclass 1, Waiting List, started on August 4, 2009.  The trial ended on September 11, 2009.  Approximately three weeks later, on November 3, 2009, Judge Eden Hifo rendered her written decision and ruled that the State of Hawaii breached its trust obligations and was liable for the delays in receiving homesteads by the beneficiaries. …

Hawaii as a state inherited the obligation to provide land to Native Hawaiians as a condition of statehood.

It has been colloquially known that some Native Hawaiians died while on the waiting list for their homesteads. During the long trial (more than a month long, with many witnesses called on both sides), beneficiaries told of being dropped from the list, being given a variety of differing requirements to qualify for an award of a homestead or agricultural plot, of the impossibility of building a home on land without infrastructure, or of farming land without the availability of water and otherwise unsuitable to grow crops.

Several of the witnesses were old enough that they could no longer farm or no longer had the income that would qualify them for a mortgage even if given their land. Their productive lives had passed without access to the homestead that was due them as an obligation of the State of Hawaii.

(video clip via clipsyndicate.com)

Irene Cordeiro-Vierra applied in 1984 and lived on the beach for much of her wait.

"Now I am 82 years old, I get letters from Hawaiian Homestead now saying I have homes you can apply for, I am not capable anymore," said Cordeiro-Vierra.

And now a step toward restitution. In ruling the state violated its fiduciary duty to Native Hawaiians, First Circuit Court Judge Eden Hifo said

"breaches were a substantial factor... of eligible Native Hawaiians not being placed on the land" between the years 1959 through 1988.

[KHON, Judge: DHHL Failed to Meet Trust Obligations to Native Hawaiians, 11/4/2009 ]

Even the legal process has been slow. The case was filed in 1999, and the trial for the damages portion of the case has been scheduled to start only on March 4, 2013. That will be 14 years already, and if the state appeals the outcome, the class members could wait even longer.

The hearing on Friday, August 31 will be to decide the following motions (from the case website):

    1.  Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Financial Qualification Requirements Imposed on Beneficiaries Seeking Homestead Awards;
    2.  Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial summary Judgment that "Deferred Status" Imposed by DHHL is Not a Bar to Damages in This Case…;
    3.  Defendants' Motion for Adoption of Specific Rules to Govern Computation of Damages (Part 1); and
    4.  Defendants' Motion for Adoption of Specific Rules to Govern Computation of Damages (Part 2).



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