State briefs for July 3

University giving dorm priority to non-Oahu freshmen

HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii is giving student housing priority at its main campus to freshmen who don’t live on Oahu.

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Because of social distancing and other guidelines to keep people safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, UH lost 30% of its student housing capacity at the Manoa campus, said spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.

There will be exemptions for students with medical needs and for athletes.

After non-Oahu freshmen, including international students, priority will go to all other students from neighbor islands and then all other applicants in the order they were selected in the normal lottery system.

“Mainland students who are not freshmen are in the last group,” Meisenzahl said.

Difficult decisions had to be made for health and safety, he said.

UH-Hilo also offers student housing, where priority is going first to all freshmen, then to neighbor island students and then out-of-state students, Meisenzahl said.

High court rules in favor of homestead applicants

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Supreme Court issued a ruling on a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list that could result in the state paying millions of dollars to beneficiaries.

The justices unanimously ruled Tuesday that the state’s conduct resulted in a growing list of Native Hawaiians waiting for homesteads, including some who died before the case was resolved.

The justices permitted a 1999 class-action lawsuit to proceed to the next stage, which includes calculating damages to be paid to plaintiffs.

About 2,700 applicants filed the lawsuit alleging breach of trust from the establishment of Hawaii’s statehood in 1959 until 1988.

Native Hawaiians are eligible to apply for 99-year leases at $1 per year for residential, ranching or farming leases on a land trust of 317 square miles overseen by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The trust was created by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 to protect and improve the lives of Native Hawaiians, who are defined as having at least 50% Hawaiian ancestry.

About 10,000 homestead leases are in place, but the waiting list now tops more than 28,000 applicants.

In the time since the lawsuit was filed, 400 of the 2,700 plaintiffs have died, although their families can be compensated.

The court said the DHHL failed to manage and preserve trust property and maintain adequate records.

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The justices upheld a lower court decision selecting a model for determining how to calculate damages through an administrative process, precluding the need to have 2,700 individual trials.

The justices also eliminated what would have been a six-year grace period before damages started to accrue for applicants on the waiting list.

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