Nelson v DHHL Case Update

  • Judge: State Must Fund Hawaiian Home Lands – March 2, 2016

Chad Blair for Civil Beat * premium content, please see text below

The state of Hawaii must adequately fund the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, a judge said Monday.

First Circuit Court Judge Jeannette Castagnetti, as detailed in a transcript released Tuesday, said in the case of Nelson vs. Hawaiian Homes Commission:

“The Defendants must fulfill their constitutional duty and trust responsibilities. To be clear, the Court is not ordering an appropriation.

“The Court is, however, ordering that the State must comply with its constitutional duty to make sufficient sums available to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands for its administrative and operating budget. There is still time for the State to become in compliance during this fiscal year.”

The lawsuit centered on whether the Hawaii Legislature was required to provide an additional $18 million on top of the $9.6 million already appropriated in the current fiscal year to DHHL.

Gov. David Ige, Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Joe Souki argued that the judiciary was exceeding its authority and could not order them to make an appropriation.

A court hearing was held last week and the judge issued a lengthy oral decision Monday.

David Frankel, an attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, which is representing DHHL beneficiaries, said Castagnetti’s decision “speaks for itself.”

Attorney Doug Chin, who represented the state, said in a statement:

“Our primary concern was the separation of powers. Yesterday’s decision by the judge revised language directing the Legislature to appropriate a specific amount to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and instead ordered the Legislature to make sufficient sums of general funds available to DHHL for its administration and operating budget, which is what the Hawaii Constitution provides.”

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