Friday, June 05, 2020
Hawaii Supreme Court orders Maui Planning Commission to answer petition on media access
From the press release:
The Hawai'i Supreme Court has ordered the Maui Planning Commission to answer and explain why they have closed the Grand Wailea Resort redevelopment contested case proceedings to the press and public.
[See also: Disappeared News part of media group seeking to open Maui Planning Commission deliberations to public scrutiny and The issue behind the Grand Wailea Resort contested case proceedings: desecration of sacred gravesites ]
Media organizations and journalists, through their Maui attorney Lance D. Collins, have lodged a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Hawai'i Supreme Court seeking an order requiring the Maui Planning Commission's contested case proceedings related to the Grand Wailea Resorts proposed expansion be reopened the public.
The Grand Wailea Resort is seeking permission to remodel and expand its operations within the Special Management Area before the Maui Planning Commission.
Three Native Hawaiian community groups, Malama Kakanilua, Hooponopono o Makena and Pele Defense Fund were granted intervention in the proceedings and the Commission appointed Maui attorney Linden Joesting as the hearings officer.
On May 7, the hearings officer issued an order denying that the proceedings were required to be open to the public, reaffirming an earlier decision that the proceedings move forward regardless of the COVID-19 emergency or the stay at home orders on the basis of needing to "get the administrative law work of the County done."
On May 19, the media groups wrote to the hearings officer and the Chair of the Maui Planning Commission asking that the contested case be reopened to the public. Thereafter, another secret hearing occurred where the hearings officer made further rulings.
Relying upon First Amendment caselaw protecting the press' right to access adjudicative proceedings, the media groups have noted Hawaii's long tradition and experience of open access to contested case proceedings especially related to land use.
"We are hopefuly the Maui Planning Commission will reopen its proceedings in the public view and open to the press. This case is of particular interest to the general community and we look forward to the opportunity to cover the story," said journalist Victor Gregor Limon.
"The press and public have a constitutional right to observe and report on the conduct of their government," said the media groups attorney Lance D. Collins.
The case is Disappeared News et al v. Maui Planning Commission et al,