Opinion: Native Hawaiian Supreme Court case
"All citizens should be alarmed that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is attempting to use political pressure to force the State of Hawai`i to abandon its “ceded lands” appeal to the US Supreme Court. OHA apparently expects to lose out in any Supreme Court decision. In spite of the fact that 32 other states support Hawai`i’s appeal, OHA does not respect the right to have the case heard before the Supreme Court.

At issue is the Cayetano-era case “OHA vs. Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai`i.” The Hawai`i State Supreme Court intervened in last year’s legislative debate over OHA revenues by suddenly choosing to decide this 1994 case. Their January, 2008 decision blocks any sale or transfer of the State’s so-called “Ceded Lands” until a political settlement with an as-yet-non-existent Akaka Tribe is reached.

The 1959 Admission Act for Hawaii mandates: “The lands granted to the State of Hawaii … together with the proceeds from the sale or other disposition of any such lands and the income therefrom, shall be held by said State as a public trust for the support of the public schools and other public educational institutions, for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians, as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended, for the development of farm and home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible, for the making of public improvements, and for the provision of lands for public use. Such lands, proceeds, and income shall be managed and disposed of for one or more of the foregoing purposes in such manner as the constitution and laws of said State may provide, and their use for any other object shall constitute a breach of trust for which suit may be brought by the United States.”

The original lawsuit was filed under the Cayetano administration in defense of the Waihe`e Administration’s 1990 proposal to build two affordable housing projects – Leiali`i in Lahaina, Maui and Laiopua in North Kona on the Big Island. Clearly these projects fall under “the development of … home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible.” Laiopua also included Kealakehe HS, and both developments included utilities and public roads in line with the Admission Act requirements: “support of the public schools” and “making of public improvements.”"

Get the Story:
Andrew Walden: Ceded Lands: OHA’s Attack on Constitutional Rights (The Hawaii Reporter 1/6)

Supreme Court Documents:
Docket Sheet No. 07-1372 | Petition for certiorari

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Supreme Court to hear Native Hawaiian case (10/1)
Supreme Court considers Indian law cases (9/30)
SCOTUSBlog: Supreme Court petitions to watch (09/19)