OHA Issues Positive Response to Ceded Lands Court Ruling

March 31, 2009, 3:13 PM HST · Updated January 6, 1:07 PM
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The U.S. Supreme court today sent a ceded lands case back to the state courts.  The justices ruled unanimously that the 1993 Apology Resolution is not grounds, of itself, to halt the state from selling Kingdom of Hawai’i crown lands.

While the Office of Hawaiian Affairs would have preferred an outright dismissal of the state’s petition, Trustees today said the result is workable.  OHA chair Haunani Apoliona said the case is headed back to the Hawaii State Supreme Court where it belongs.

There are an estimated 1.2 million acres of crown lands in the state.

(Posted by Wendy Osher 2009)

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OHA ISSUES STATEMENT APPLAUDING U.S. SUPREME COURT CEDED-LANDS DECISION

Photo: by Blaine Fergerstrom, Courtesy OHA

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs applauded today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to send the ceded-lands case back to the Hawai’i Supreme Court for further deliberations.

“We are pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remand the case to the Hawai’i Supreme Court, as we had suggested in our brief and at oral argument,” said Haunani Apoliona, chairperson of the OHA Board of Trustees.

“We consider the Court’s decision to be a favorable one. While we would have preferred an outright dismissal of the petition, the result in this case is workable,” said Apoliona.

In an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “(OHA and individual) Respondents defend that decision by arguing that they have both state-law property rights in the land in question and ‘broader moral and political claims for compensation for the wrongs of the past.’ … But we have no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law.  The judgment of the Supreme Court of Hawaii is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

“From the day the Hawai’i Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision prohibiting the sale and the transfer of ceded lands to third parties until the claims to those lands by the Native Hawaiian people were resolved, the Board of Trustees believed that the state Supreme Court ruled correctly,” said Apoliona.

“Now the case is headed back to the Hawai’i Supreme Court where it belongs. This case should never have been taken outside of the state of Hawai’i,” said Apoliona.

OHA will now focus on attempting to persuade the Hawai’i Supreme Court to reaffirm the injunction that it ordered in last year’s opinion as a matter of state law.

“Our collective thoughts and energies contributed to this successful outcome,” Apoliona said.

“Now let us move forward in our reconciliation process with a similar spirit of collaboration and unified purpose. ‘Püpükahi I Holomua – Unite to move forward,'” said Apoliona.

PRESS CONERENCE REMARKS OF OHA CHAIRPERSON HAUNANI APOLIONA

MARCH 31, 2009
OHA BOARDROOM

Aloha mai kakou,

More than a year ago, on January 31, 2008, the Hawai’i Supreme Court issued a unanimous, landmark decision prohibiting the State of Hawai’i from selling or transferring ceded lands to third parties until the unrelinquished claims of the Native Hawaiian people to those lands are resolved.

Since that ruling, the OHA Board of Trustees felt that the decision by the Hawai’i Supreme Court was correct — it was pono.

With today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the case now heads back to the Hawai’i Supreme Court and we applaud that decision to send the ceded lands case back to the Hawai’i Supreme Court for further deliberations, as we had suggested in our brief and oral argument. We consider the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to be a favorable one. While we would have preferred an outright dismissal of the petition, the result in this case is workable.

We believe that the U.S. Supreme Court clearly indicated that its decision today is not necessarily the end of the line for this case.

The case is headed back to Hawai’i and will be decided by the state’s highest court where it rightfully belongs. As we have consistently said for months, this case should never have been taken outside of the state of Hawai’i.

OHA will now focus on persuading the Hawai’i Supreme Court that it should reaffirm the injunction that it ordered in last year’s opinion as a matter of state law.

When we traveled to chilly Washington D.C. last month, we were warmed by the outpouring of support and the spirit of kukulu kumuhana that reached from our Hawai’i homeland across the nation.

On behalf of the OHA Board of Trustees, I would like to say, “Mahalo” to the entire Hawai’i congressional delegation, various Native Hawaiian organizations and individuals and other organizations willing to speak up for fairness and justice who filed briefs as friends of the Court in support of OHA’s position.

The OHA Trustees also wish to say “Mahalo” to Native Hawaiians who led the “kukulu kumuhana,” that reached from our homeland Hawai’i across the nation to Washington D.C., and to all kama’aina and malihini who joined with us in this unified effort. Our collective actions and energies contributed to this favorable outcome. Now let us move forward in our reconciliation process with a similar spirit of collaboration and unified purpose. No Na ‘O–iwi ‘O–lino E Pupukahi I Holomua – Unite to move forward.

(Posted by Wendy OSHER 2009; Placeholder Photo: by Blaine Fergerstrom, Courtesy OHA)

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