LIHUE — Judge Randal Valenciano’s courtroom was full on Thursday as more than 50 people filed in to be a part of quiet title proceedings related to land on Kauai’s Westside.
Robinson Family Partners initiated the court proceedings in August by filing a civil complaint to claim ownership of the land via title. Twenty-two people went on record claiming interest in the land via royal patent.
“What we did here today was not having Valenciano make a decision in the Robinsons’ favor,” said Lance Kamuela Gomes, one of two people who have already filed responses to the complaint.
Punohu Kekaualua is the other person who has filed a response.
The land in question is in Waimea and Makaweli.
It’s akin to the Mark Zuckerberg quiet title suits and is something that’s happening throughout the state — people with familial ties to the land and with royal patents challenging those who would say they own the land.
Historically, the ali’i or Hawaiian royalty owned the land and throughout time the history of Hawaii lands has become muddled. Quiet titles are used to clarify land ownership.
“Beware if you buy land in Hawaii, because you don’t know who it’s tied to,” said Rupert Roe, who is one of the people claiming interest in the land. “All of the kanaka have interest in the land.”
Many times quiet title suits move through the courts without those who have ties to the land speaking up, and the crowd that gathered on Tuesday was there to ensure that didn’t happen.
“We have rights to this claim and we’re here to represent,” Kekaualua said during the court proceedings, “and there are more people that aren’t here right now, people that had to work. There’s way more.”
Kekaualua also said he has a concern with Valenciano adjudicating the suit.
“Valenciano should recuse himself as our judge, because he grew up with the Robinson family and they are family friends, which would be a conflict of interest,” he said.
No decision was made on the suit and Valenciano gave anyone else with an interest a chance to file a response with the courts until the end of the business day on Jan. 12.