Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Native Hawaiians Win Milestone Victory in Legal Challenge to State's Administration of Hawaiian Homes Commission Act

Native Hawaiians under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act won a class-action lawsuit against the State of Hawaii for failing to promptly award home lots. See Craig Gima, Court rules state failed on trust lands, Star Bulletin, Nov. 05, 2009.

According to the Star Bulletin, the lawsuit was filed in "1999 on behalf of about 2,700 native Hawaiians who claimed they were not promptly awarded homesteads between 1959 and 1988." The next step in the case will be to determine how damages will be resolved. The result could be some form of money damages and/or injunctive relief requiring the state to act. A creative solution might be the kind of oversight ordered on the U.S. Department of the Interior when it was found to have failed in its trust obligations to native Americans.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands ("DHHL") administers provisions of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920 ("HHCA"). The HHCA provides for the rehabilitation of the native Hawaiian people through a government-sponsored homesteading program. The program is applicable to "any descendant of not less than one-half part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778." HHCA Sec. 201.

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