Hawaiian court cases to be heard this week

The Honolulu Advertiser
Sunday, October 31, 2004

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two court cases considered pivotal to the Native Hawaiian community stand out among the 30 to be heard here this week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, although the court's three-judge panel is not expected to issue any immediate decisions.

Tomorrow's hearing begins at 9 a.m., with the panel using the bankruptcy courtroom at 1132 Bishop St. Fourth. On the docket: the so-called Arakaki lawsuit, in which Earl Arakaki and 10 other taxpayers challenge the constitutionality of government programs that benefit only Native Hawaiians.

And at 9 a.m. Thursday, the entourage moves to the Moot Courtroom at the University of Hawai'i, a classroom ordinarily used by students at the William S. Richardson School of Law. A crowd from Kamehameha Schools is expected because the first case of the day is Doe v. Kamehameha, the suit seeking to block the schools' Hawaiian-preference admission policy as a violation of federal law.

Unless overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the decisions by the 9th Circuit will be binding on federal courts here, said Eric Yamamoto, a UH law professor. State courts are also obligated to adhere to them, he said, in cases based on the same section of federal law or the U.S. Constitution.

The court is based in San Francisco but comes to Hawai'i twice a year to hear appeals of federal court decisions from Hawai'i, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Arakaki case is of particular concern to the beneficiaries of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and to Hawaiian homesteaders because they tap into government programs that target people of Hawaiian ancestry. A year ago, the federal court here dismissed the case because Congress still hadn't decided whether to recognize Hawaiians as a political class, a recognition that would exempt them from constitutional barriers against racial preference.

Oral arguments will be presented by four attorneys representing the state and federal governments as well as OHA and the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations. Another lawyer will speak for the taxpayers who filed the suit.

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Original article URL: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Oct/31/ln/ln20p.html/?print=on

Refer to "Talk Story With Uncle Charlie" and read the two letters that were submitted about the lawsuit against Kamehameha School.

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