Tuesday, March 31, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Holds that Apology Resolution Does not Bar Sale of Ceded Lands

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The Court reversed the Hawaii Supreme Court's holding that the sale of ceded lands would constitute a breach of the state’s fiduciary duty to Native Hawaiians based on federal law. In particular, the Apology Resolution did not strip Hawaii of its sovereign authority to alienate the lands the United States held in absolute fee and granted to the state upon its admission to the Union.

The case has been remanded to the Hawaii Supreme Court. In conclusion, the Court noted that it has "no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law." (Citations omitted.) While it is now clear that the Apology Resolution doesn't have the force and effect OHA hoped for, the Hawaii Supreme Court could still hold that the state is enjoined from selling ceded lands based on state law (i.e., without relying on the Apology Resolution).

For more on the this case see Ceded Lands.

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