LIHUE — The dispute over kuleana lots on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s estate in Kilauea has spawned another lawsuit.
Two people with partial claims to the four small land plots are suing their distant cousin, Carlos Andrade, for allegedly violating court procedure by colluding with a Zuckerberg-controlled company during “quiet title” legal proceedings initiated by Andrade two years ago in an attempt to settle the land ownership dispute.
Attorneys with the Lihue law firm De Costa Hempey filed a civil complaint Wednesday on behalf of Shannon Buckner, a defendant in the quiet title suit, and Wayne Rapozo, a London-based attorney who has helped to coordinate and finance the legal battle opposing the land partition. Both Buckner and Rapozo have claims to the kuleana through their shared descendant, Manuel Rapozo, who emigrated to the island from Portugal and purchased the land over a century ago.
In November, a Fifth Circuit judge dismissed arguments made against the land partition and ordered the parcels to be sold at public auction, which is scheduled for noon Friday on the courthouse steps.
Andrade’s attorney did not respond to repeated requests for comment but did send an op-ed written by his client that The Garden Island published today. Andrade’s statement does not address the new lawsuit directly or its allegations of collusion with Zuckerberg in the quiet title suit but says he does intend to bid on the four kuleana lots at Friday’s auction, “in order to retain my family’s fair share in what remains of the property.”
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Andrade’s bid at the auction will be financed by Zuckerberg or an entity he controls.
Craig De Costa, of De Costa Hempey, said Wednesday that his clients’ lawsuit won’t do anything to stop the kuleana auction on Friday, but he explained that it could tie up the sale before it is finalized at a later date.
A quiet title lawsuit is a way to settle property disputes when multiple parties — in the case of these four kuleana, there are hundreds — have claims to a single piece of land. One of the owners can sue the remaining parties to “quiet the title,” or settle the dispute through a legal process that ultimately leaves the property in the hands of a single owner.
That’s what Andrade and a corporation called Northshore Kalo LLC did in December 2016, less than two days before a new state law took effect that affords minority kuleana owners more protection in quiet title claims. When the Honolulu Star-Advertiser broke the news that Northshore Kalo was actually a shell corporation for Zuckerberg, a media firestorm erupted, prompting an apology and a promise by Zuckerberg to end his attempts to gain ownership of the land.
Northshore Kalo removed itself as a plaintiff and switched sides in the lawsuit, filing as a defendant alongside the hundreds of other people with holding interests in the land. Zuckerberg’s apology letter in The Garden Island in January 2017 said he would continue to support Andrade’s pursuit of the quiet title claim.
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges that Northshore Kalo backed Andrade’s legal battle to quiet the kuleana titles, despite the fact that the two parties were on opposing sides in the case, a claim that, if proven, could constitute an abuse of the legal process, voiding the court-ordered partition of the land.
A partner with the Honolulu firm representing Northshore Kalo said Thursday he did not have any specific comment on the matter and declined to answer further questions about the lawsuit.
“Andrade has received money or in-kind services of law firms, cultural consultancies, public relations firms and other service providers and advisers paid by and/or directed by the Zuckerberg entities or their lawyers,” the complaint says, accusing Andrade of working with Northshore Kalo “in a collusive manner,” against the interests of the other Rapozo descendants who want the four kuleana to remain in the family’s collective possession.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys also state that any support Andrade received from Zuckerberg or Northshore Kalo is the equivalent of income — income which Andrade would legally be required to distribute among all kuleana share owners because it was derived from the land.
Andrade’s failure to disclose the alleged remuneration is “contrary to the proper administration of justice,” according to the lawsuit, which says the benefits Andrade received from the land should have been shared with the extended Rapozo family.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.
The name De Costa Hempey has been corrected.