Plaintiffs seek judgment in lawsuit over Mauna Kea road

KAILUA-KONA — Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii over management of land around the Mauna Kea Access Road are seeking a partial summary judgment in the case.

The lawsuit filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation argues the departments of Transportation and Land and Natural Resources have illegally used land around the access road on the state’s tallest mountain, West Hawaii Today reported.

A hearing via video conference was scheduled to be held Tuesday.

The lawsuit filed in February alleges the state failed to obtain authorization from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands or the Hawaiian Homes Commission to build the road on Hawaiian Home Lands property in 1964.

Subsequent use of the land has been unlawful, while the department has failed to act exclusively in the interests of its beneficiaries, the lawsuit argues.

A partial summary judgment is a request by a litigant for a ruling on some but not all claims or causes of action.

The judgement request asks an Oahu judge to declare that transportation department Director Jade Butay and land and natural resources Director Suzanne Case breached their trust obligations and violated the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920.

The motion also asks the court for a declaration that control of lands underlying the Mauna Kea Access Road rests solely with members of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and that the 6.27-mile (10-kilometer) road is not a state or public highway.

The state Department of the Attorney General filed a motion of opposition Monday saying the plaintiffs do not meet the burden to prove summary judgment is entitled.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Big Island Hawaiian community leaders Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele, Edward Halealoha Ayau and Kelii W. Iaone Jr.

Iaone and Kanahele were among more than 30 Hawaiian elders arrested during a protest at the access road in July 2019.

Demonstrators blocked the access road in a months-long protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope project at Mauna Kea’s summit last year. Telescope opponents said the project would desecrate land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.

  1. Kenneth Conklin August 6, 2020 6:04 am Reply

    The best defense against this lawsuit would be for the State to assert that the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 was unconstitutional when it was passed, and remains unconstitutional, because it violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment which guarantees that all persons regardless of race are entitled to the equal protection of the laws. HHCA would be legal for a federally recognized Indian tribe; but there is no Hawaiian tribe. Of course the State would never assert such a defense, because it would be politically incorrect to do so.

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