Defendants to blame for Coco Palms confusion

What has caused chaos and puzzlement in the Coco Palms trial is a failure of the one of the parties to understand proper legal procedure and a court’s jurisdiction. Land is unique and a right to possession often requires a quick legal method to determine possession of it.

A common example of summary possession is found in landlord and tenant cases. A renter stops paying on his/her lease. The landlord needs to secure summary possession. His remedy is to apply to the District Court, a court of limited jurisdiction, for the right of immediate possession. The landlord’s proof of the right to possession is the lease and non-payment of rent.

The issue of tittle to property can only be tried in the Circuit Courts of Hawaii. That is a much more involved legal process that could take years to secure a final resolution of who is the rightful owner.

Coco Palms filed an action in ejectment seeking immediate possession of the land in the District Court, a court whose jurisdiction is limited to determining the right of possession. It was incumbent on the defendants to immediately respond to this ejectment complaint and if they are asserting title, get the case transferred to the Circuit Court.

The result of this failure has been a confusing trial, with one side claiming an immediate right to possession and the defendants asserting title. Many times, during the proceedings Judge Michael Soong admonished the defendants that the only issue he has jurisdiction over is the right to possession.

Judge Soong has been patient and fair throughout the trial. At one point during the proceedings on Dec. 29 he was challenged by Hepa as not being Hawaiian. That is irrelevant to the issue of his impartiality. For the record he is Hawaiian. Perhaps the lack of understanding of the limited issue in this case makes one side feel he is being unfair.

Our legal system works best for all of us if we follow proper procedures. There is a distrust of lawyers and even judges because of lack of understanding of this basic principle. I applaud Judge Soong for his impartiality and fairness in this case. He understands his limitations and is doing his best to conduct a proper trial.

I write this because the confusion in this matter has been caused by a failure of the defendants to get the case into the right court to try their claim of title. American justice may appear to be puzzling to native people but it is the best form of dispute resolution for all the people living here. Puzzles are created by ourselves and not the legal system.


William J. Fernandez is a retired lawyer and judge and lives in Kapaa.

  1. larry January 1, 2018 5:35 am Reply

    If that place re opens island congestion will get worse…..sure it will create some temporary jobs but at what long term effect.

    1. Henry cokee January 7, 2018 2:09 pm Reply

      Judge ” fernadez ” who wrote this article is a crook and a business parter of the LLC and Tyler Greene Chad waters , hince all his negative and false claims

  2. Jake January 1, 2018 6:30 am Reply

    “he was challenged by Hepa as not being Hawaiian.”

    What a “royal” waste of time these adult children have created. Yes, when you can’t make any other intelligent arguments, points, or continue the debate/discussion, …..then sure…..make it a “race thing”. “You are not Hawaiian”! …….Brilliant. Kauai education at its best.

  3. Reverend Malama Robinson January 1, 2018 7:23 am Reply

    With all due respect and Aloha….

    PLEASE take you supreme elitist attitudes of u.s. law having any jurisdiction in the illegally occupied Hawai’i Kingdom and set them in,your toilet.

    Now read, learn and act Hawai’ian…..


  4. kauaiisfun January 1, 2018 7:26 am Reply

    Great article.

  5. debra kekaualua January 1, 2018 7:58 am Reply

    failure of Judge, as he mentioned several times, his court has no jurisdiction and “title” would be fair if it went to THAT other court status.

  6. Cecil B Hanson January 1, 2018 9:05 am Reply

    Well said. Mahalo Nui Loa!

  7. Sunrise_blue January 1, 2018 9:37 am Reply

    Wow. Ok. I never heard of Zachery Abrue of Hanapepe. Who played football and refereed with Ross Kagawa. He works at Wal-Mart in Lihue. Ross Kagawa is a Kaua’i county councimen. 2013, 2015, & 2016 are his election years. But so what?

    A new year is here 2018. TGI.

  8. John Zwiebel January 1, 2018 10:26 am Reply

    Nice sentiments Judge. But what we are seeing is the fruition of years and years of planning by the Koch Brothers and their allies. The underfunding of public schools such that middle class families have formed “Charter Schools” which further drain the public offering. The establishment of binding arbitration, where the little guy can never win, to take the place of the Public Courts. Clinton’s “end of welfare as we know it” which has frozen our class structure in place so that if one is born poor, no matter how smart or ambitious, he will remain poor. I constantly hear second hand stories of “friends” who would rather live on the beach than work because there is so little reward for working that they’d be on the beach anyway.

    Chris Hedges interview with Ralph Nader morns the loss of American Democracy. I sadly agree with him. Americans are no longer “all in this together” but we view everyone as a threat and so fail to organize against the one true threat to us all, the Capitalist concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few elite. Men so wealthy they can purchase any politician they want, or destroy those politicians who won’t go along.

    1. RG DeSoto January 2, 2018 8:08 am Reply

      “Men so wealthy they can purchase any politician they want, or destroy those politicians who won’t go along.”
      The problem, John, is not the wealthy men. It is the politicians and the glutted, violence prone, police state they control that is the real issue. The state has the power to destroy people and businesses; hence the urges of some to gain control of the politicians–it’s basically self-preservation. Take away the power of the state and wealthy men will have no need to influence greedy politicians.
      RG DeSoto

  9. Sunrise_blue January 1, 2018 10:39 am Reply

    Ross Kagawa, Zachery Abrue, Anela Pacol, all came from the same line of thought. Yearbook in Waimea high school 1980s. There is no logic behind the newspaper stories on Kauai county councilmen. GET, TAT, etc. Really..with who?

  10. RG DeSoto January 1, 2018 12:24 pm Reply

    William…thank you for a clear and concise explanation. Sadly, I think it will sail right over the defendants’ capacity (or lack thereof) for rational reasoning.
    RG DeSoto

  11. Roman Kozak January 1, 2018 4:47 pm Reply

    Maybe they should go back to school and refresh their Reading and Comprehension?

  12. Steve marrtin January 1, 2018 9:32 pm Reply

    For those who wish not to see the rebuild because of the traffic mess and road conditions take a hard look again. The chance of seeing the traffic congestion and road conditions improve will only happen with the money appropriated by the developers. There is a slim chance that the state won’t do it because there is no taxpayer money available for the project. That property needs to generate tax for the state and country. There is no money for purchase or a park destination and furthermore no funds for any repairs or maintenance .

  13. James Kuroiwa January 2, 2018 11:23 am Reply

    Uncle Bill, mahalo for your comments for the Coco Palms issue.

  14. Kealia January 2, 2018 3:34 pm Reply

    Thank you for writing this letter. Many will say that since the islands were taken”illegally” then the US courts have no jurisdiction. Show me a court that does, then? Those same people who say this use the “illegal” paved roads, “illegal” electricity, “illegal” postal system, “illegal” water, “illegal” schools for their kids. Irony at it’s best.

  15. Henry cokee January 7, 2018 2:11 pm Reply

    Fernandez is in business with all

    The curruption.

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