Office of Hawaiian Affairs goes to court seeking $200 million from legislature

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June 3, 2010

HONOLULU, Hawaii: In what chief executive officer Clyde Namuo called "a means of last resort," the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has asked the state Supreme Court to force the legislature to pay $200 million it says the OHA is owed for lands once owned by the Hawaiian monarchy. These lands were ceded to the state and include airports, hospitals, and the Hawaiian Housing Authority. According to the OHA, court decisions in 2001 and 2006 mandate that the legislature address the claims, and that an agreement was also made between OHA and the Lingle administration in 2008. However, proposals submitted by the OHA to the legislature in 2008, 2009, and 2010 were all rejected.[1]

Attorney General Mark Bennett has stated that OHA's appeal to the court is without merit, as it cannot force lawmakers to act in such a fashion. OHA is seeking a writ of mandamus, which, according to Bennett, is used to force a government official to perform a ministerial action. He stated, "I don't think that mandamus is the proper forum. I don't think the courts can require a Legislature to consider or address particular issues."[2] The state has been paying OHA approximately $15 million annually for the last few years, but it has not been agreed how much they should receive in the future or how much they are owed for the past 30 years.

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