Kalalau camping conviction upheld in high court

LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i Supreme Court on Friday issued an opinion affirming the conviction of Llyod Pratt, an Anahola man convicted in 2006 of three illegal camping violations in Kalalau Valley.

The case addressed issues of existing laws and constitutionally-protected Native Hawaiian practices. After a review of the facts and consideration of the competing interests, the court upheld the convictions.

“We maintain a great respect for Native Hawaiian practices on state lands” Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said. “However, as reaffirmed by the high court, those practices have to comply with the laws that are in place to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our lands and all citizens.”

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney said Pratt was found guilty on the charges in 2006, and 5th District Court Judge Frank Rothschild sentenced him to 60 hours of community service.

Pratt was represented by attorney Dan Hempey, who argued that the activities were constitutionally-protected Native Hawaiian practices.

The state presented testimony that the purpose of the park regulations was to limit the number of people permitted in the park for health and safety reasons, and to protect vulnerable park resources.

Pratt then appealed his convictions to the Intermediate Court of Appeals where they were upheld. He then appealed to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, which reviewed the case in order to define the scope of the legal privilege for Native Hawaiians to engage in customary or traditional Native Hawaiian practices when such practices conflict with state regulations, according to OPA.

The court clarified the law as requiring a balancing of an individual’s interest in using the land freely versus the state’s interest in regulating the use of parks and public resources. In its ruling, the court found that although Pratt had a strong interest in visiting Kalalau Valley, he did not attempt to visit in accordance with the laws of the state.

“Those laws serve important purposes, including maintaining the park for public use and preserving the environment of the park,” states Associate Justice Paula Nakayama in the 32-page opinion.

The court explained that Pratt is not prohibited from using the park, but must apply for the proper permits and permissions in order to stay overnight and make changes to the land.

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