LIHUE — During opening arguments at the Coco Palms civil trial that recently wrapped up in Judge Michael Soong’s District courtroom, defendant Kamu “Charles” Hepa gave a commanding oration defending his right to sacred land in Wailua in the Hawaiian language.
The court, Soong told him halfway through his speech, couldn’t understand what he was saying because it wasn’t in English. Soong gave him the option to continue in English, or continue in Hawaiian. Hepa continued in Hawaiian.
After the first day’s proceedings and with much consternation from those observing the trial, Soong denied the defendants right to a translator.
Having an interpreter was their right, the defendants argued.
Hepa indicated he would speak in the Hawaiian language throughout the trial, with or without an interpreter.
At the next appearance, Soong told the defendants that they would be permitted to use an interpreter.
That interpreter was well-known activist Kumu Hina.
Addressing Soong at one hearing, Hina said she was having difficulty translating because of the cultural differences of the Hawaiian language and the legal language of the courts.
Another hearing was rescheduled for the following day when Hina said she missed her plane from Oahu that morning.
During the trial, every word of English was translated into the Hawaiian language and every word of Hawaiian that was spoken was translated into English.