Judge takes motion for partial summary judgment in Maunakea Access Road lawsuit ‘under advisement’

  • Tribune-Herald file photo A view from Pu’u Huluhulu on July 19, 2019, at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Maunakea Access Road.

A motion seeking partial summary judgment against the state over its management of land around the Maunakea Access Road was heard Tuesday in Honolulu.

First Circuit Court Judge Lisa W. Cataldo took the motion under advisement and did not rule, instead asking counsel for the plaintiffs to submit written response to objections raised by Deputy Attorney General Ryan K. P. Kanakaole over declarations. The response is due by Aug. 21.

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The judge also did not set a hearing to rule on the motion, but indicated attorneys in the matter may request a status conference.

The lawsuit, filed in February by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, argues the state departments of Transportation and Land and Natural Resources have used the more than 65 acres of land around the road illegally and without providing compensation for decades.

The plaintiffs, Big Island Hawaiian community leaders Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele, Edward Halealoha Ayau and Kelii W. Iaone Jr., moved for partial summary judgment in the case in mid-July.

According to the complaint, the state failed to obtain authorization from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands or the Hawaiian Homes Commission to build the Maunakea Access Road on DHHL land in 1964. Therefore, subsequent use of the land has been unlawful, and the DHHL failed in its duties to act exclusively in the interests of its beneficiaries.

Iaone and Kanahele were among more than 30 kupuna arrested July 17, 2019, during the months-long occupation of the road by people protesting the planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Ayau is a former DHHL employee who resigned his position in 2019 in protest of the agency’s failure to act in its beneficiaries’ interest regarding the road.

The motion asks the judge to declare defendants DOT Director Jade Butay and DLNR Director Suzanne Case breached their trust obligations and violated the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 by asserting control over Hawaiian home lands underlying the access road and using the same without compensation and that those defendants are liable for breach of the Hawaiian home lands trust.

Further, it asks the court declare control of Hawaiian home lands underlying the road rests solely with members of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and to find that the 6.27-mile road is not a state or public highway.

The motion also asks for a declaration that Hawaiian Homes Commission members Patricia Kahanamoku-Teruya, Randy Awo, Pauline Namuo, Zachary Helm, Dennis Neves, Michael Kaleikini, Russell Kaupu and David B. Kaapu breached their trust obligations and violated the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act by failing to redress the state departments’ interference with the commission’s exclusive control and their rent-free use of the road.

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The state attorney general’s office said in its motion in opposition to the partial summary judgment request that the plaintiffs don’t meet their burden to prove summary judgment is entitled.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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