Coco Palms saga far from over

  • Contributed photo

    Allan Parachini

When District Court Judge Edmund Acoba takes the bench this morning, it will not be in his normal capacity as the judicial officer for Family Court in Kauai County.

Court insiders say Acoba is perplexed about exactly what to make of it, a fate shared by Judge Michael Soong, who presided over the recent trial that ordered occupiers of the former Coco Palms resort in Wailua. Soong ordered them evicted.

On Thursday morning, a multi-agency force of dozens of law enforcement officers — most from the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) and the Kauai Police Department —staged a raid that evicted them.

Now, the dispute shifts back to court in a hearing calendared for 9 a.m. Acoba will be presiding in the latest installment of a protracted court battle over who may — and may not — occupy Coco Palms Today’s proceeding will continue the saga of a case that has, for the last several months, proceeded in what amounts to two parallel judicial universes.

Specifically, Acoba will consider a petition of the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office to strike from the record a document filed Jan. 26 that appears to accuse Soong, a colleague of Acoba’s, with contempt of court and “perverting the course of justice.” Soong handled the case through a trial that resulted in the order earlier this month evicting the occupiers from the Coco Palms property.

One perspective — that of state and county government — is that Soong issued a legal ruling based on clear Hawaii state law that found the occupiers have no legal right to be present at the ruins of the former hotel. From that perspective, the document accusing Soong is from a fictional court that exists only in the mythology of the Hawaiian separatist movement.

The other perspective is that the District Court lacks both authority and jurisdiction over the matter because the Coco Palms occupiers are there pursuant to title claims that derive from so-called “royal patents,” that assign ownership based on historical Hawaiian lineage. The occupiers, who have acted as their own attorneys thus far, contend that they are not subject to District Court authority. Rather, they say, they are subject to law of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It is not clear if Charles Hepa and Noa Mau Espirito will have lawyers present today or continue as their own attorneys.

There is a dispute over whether records of the Hawaiian Kingdom Supreme Court in 1883 found that descendants of legendary Kauai resident Deborah Kapule had any ownership rights after that year. But the defendants in the eviction action, Hepa and Mau Espirito, claim ownership, nonetheless.

On Thursday, Mau Espirito said he expects a judge of the Court of the Sovereign to be on hand at the courthouse today. That may prompt a new controversy over whether this person is really a judge. The Jan. 26 document identifies Moses Enoka Heanu as the chief justice of the Court of the Sovereign. It was not clear from what Mau Espirito said whether that person plans to be in court today.

Court administration sources said the document in question, which bears stamps of “THE HAWAIIAN JUDICIARY Court of the Sovereign,” was received in the Kauai courthouse, which duly entered a genuine filed stamp on it without question, even though the court that ostensibly issued it is, from a legal perspective, fictitious.

The filing — 36 pages long — consists mostly of documents detailing the alleged crimes involved in the 1893 takeover, depicting the filing as an “order to arrest grand jury indictment” and “writ of covenant notice to the bench.” They are like those found on many Hawaiian sovereignty websites.

On Thursday, Mau Espirito said the filing constitutes dismissal of the ejectment case in which Soong ordered him, Hepa and several dozen followers off the Coco Palms property. Both men said Soong is subject to “indictment” and that the entire case against them has been rendered void.

This is not the first time something like this has occurred, these court administration sources said, because local court clerical employees and judges understand that many on Kauai, and elsewhere in the islands, sincerely and summarily reject the legitimacy of the United States and state governments based on the circumstances surrounding the 1893 takeover of Hawaii by the U.S. In other words, courts in accord with federal and Hawaii state law have no authority.

“We respect people’s views of the court system,” even if they don’t believe it has any authority, said one court administrator. That is the cultural divide that has pervaded this case from the day the occupiers first entered the Coco Palms property.

On the one hand, the official Kauai government has no choice but to operate under applicable state and federal law. On the other hand, Native Hawaiian rights activists challenge that authority and often refuse to comply with its orders.

During a trial spread over more than three weeks, Soong repeatedly reminded Hepa and Mau Espirito that he was powerless to rule based on anything but Hawaii state law.

When Soong was told of the filing, “he sort of rolled his eyes,” said a court employee familiar with Soong’s reaction.

The court, however, handled the filing consistent with what court administrators said is a standard, if de facto, procedure. If such a filing accuses a judge of misconduct, the court notifies the Attorney General’s Office, which is the legal representative of all Hawaii court personnel. There, Deputy Atty. Gen. Robyn Chun decided to file what is called a “motion to strike.” That’s an official legal proceeding challenging whether a document filed in court has any legal reason to be there or whether it should be officially ignored.

Acoba’s reaction, these court sources said, was similar to Soong’s. But since the motion to strike is considered to have been filed and — for the moment, anyway — is in the court record, and Soong can’t preside over a hearing that seeks to find that he, himself, acted illegally, it will fall to Acoba to hear the matter.

It wasn’t clear if Hepa and Mau Espirito will demand that a Hawaiian language interpreter be present — as they did during the trial. If they do, today’s proceeding may result in a decision by Acoba to continue the case.

If they don’t, it will fall to Acoba to take over the process of sorting all of this out.

  1. Uncleaina February 23, 2018 6:33 am Reply

    Of course they’ll demand a Hawaiian interpreter. Likewise they’ll try to use this to gain attention. They’ll claim how this isn’t fair…this isn’t the courts jurisdiction…this isn’t really the United States..basically just grandstanding for each other and the media. While I feel some empathy and compassion for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, these guys – not so much. I have yet to hear anything except fabricated stories about how they’re living in traditional ways- yet I drive past them every morning and they are living in Walmart tents with a generator, Costco food, maybe 6-10 people max. They want to fish? Go fish in Wailua River or at the beach. Nobody stopping them. In fact you can fish anywhere on Kauai without a license. Want to camp? Hike less than a mile across the river and camp on the huge parcel of Hawaii homelands between the river and Hanamaulu. But what they really want is to continue to cause trouble and get attention. I thought it was funny that they were complaining about the cops coming “just as they opened their eyes”… well it was after 8 am and most of the island had been awake for hours and was already at work. Did native Hawaiians sleep in until 9 or something?

  2. Manawai February 23, 2018 7:10 am Reply

    Moses Enoka Heanu is a registered sex offender and therefor a fitting choice for the Coco Palms occupiers.

  3. kauaidog February 23, 2018 8:53 am Reply

    I’ve lived here 11 years and just don’t understand what these Hawaiian folks think they are going to accomplish? Did these folks really think they were going to stay at the Coco Palms? Do they think somehow Hawaii is going to be handed back to them? Get your kids educated, reclaim what you can of your culture and move on. Look to the future and don’t wallow in the past. Being from the Midwest and familiar with Native American issues I am sympathetic to the horrible things done to Indigenous Peoples as the White Man colonized the world. Seems like a lot of valuable court time is being taken up with this stuff and appears most of the time it is really re litigating actions taken over a century ago.

    1. Jake February 24, 2018 7:44 pm Reply

      There are a lot of Adult Children on the islands that play the victim. It’s just a matter of lack of accountability and responsibility. Over here it’s accepted to hang out at the beach, surf, smoke pot, until your 40s and 50s. Love watching 40 year old children riding a skateboard down the road with a surfboard in hand at 9 am every day.

      Everyone gets a trophy mentality. The County is wasting time and money it does not have. All the cockroaches will start squatting on property claiming a royal patent. Stop the madness!

  4. harv February 23, 2018 9:45 pm Reply

    Allan Parcheesi used to be described as a ‘former journalist’ in the Garden Island. They should bring back that description. Now he’s just a far-left loudmouth who’s given a forum for serial nonsense.

  5. rk669 February 24, 2018 6:57 am Reply

    These Local Squatters,should have Called in the hypocritical Jessie Jackson! The master of Racial Extortion Issues! He’s been very successful in the Past! Seems to be on the DL,since the community organizer left office?

  6. Sue February 24, 2018 10:58 am Reply

    I am in total agreement with you Kauaidog! It is sad what happened a century ago. But those people’s family sold them out a long time ago. They have no rights to the land. Get over it and move on.

  7. Sunrise_blue February 24, 2018 11:54 am Reply

    Do they have a look a like? Judge Edmund Acoba.

  8. Sunrise_blue February 24, 2018 12:07 pm Reply

    Just the facts. Do you or do you not have a law degree for me in court now? Yes or no.
    And then we can take a ten minute break. Be back in 10.

  9. WestKauai February 24, 2018 7:49 pm Reply

    I suggest that these “Hawaiian Activists” go out and actively pursue employment, They could then show their ohana the route to independence, providing sustainable support to them as well. They have had the same opportunities as the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and other groups have used to prosper on Kauai…

  10. KauaiParadise March 1, 2018 6:33 am Reply

    I wonder if they would be saying that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction or authority if it had ruled in their favor?

    This seems to me like a strategy to drag it out long enough for the owners to just pay them off so they will go away … the longer this drags on, the more likely that becomes because the cost of paying them to go away will eventually be less than the losses they are taking from all the delays in construction …

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