What Happened at US Supreme Court

SUBHEAD: Both The Hawaii Attorney General and OHA made fools of themselves. SOURCE: Lanny Sinkin lanny.sinkin@gmail.com By Leon Siu on 27 February 2009 in Washington, D.C., USA Image above: Composite graphic with head of Mark Bennett on Stephan King's "IT" clown shoulders by Juan Wilson. Reading the newspaper accounts of the State of Hawaii v. the Office of Hawaiian Affairs oral arguments at the Supreme Court I asked myself, were they in the same courtroom that I was? Hawaii papers put a phony, positive spin on what actually went down. The stories were written with the kind of provincial slant… home-town-team, win-or-lose, they’re-our-boys and we’re-darn proud-of- ‘em and we-love- ‘em. Well, we do love ‘em, but those of us who were there saw a very different picture than the hometown news reported. The fact is, the state and OHA choked.
Hawaii’s little league ball teams do much better in rallying and coming through in the clutch in their world-series encounters. But the State and OHA got dirty lickins playing in this big league, world-series- level of court. They performed like a bunch of amateur scam artists, but in nice suits. In essence, the Supreme Court justices appeared not just skeptical, they seemed to be downright annoyed at the state's convoluted arguments and manipulative efforts to have the federal court undo the results of 14 years of dragging through the state courts. The justices took their line of questioning way outside the expectations and comfort zone of both the state and OHA. Neither party was prepared to (or wanted to) address the issue of title except to reinforce the state’s claim to so-called “perfect title” as “a given.” So they did some fancy footwork to try to dodge the title issue; which did not amuse or make any points with the court. Neither was the court pleased when the state and OHA tried to steer the justices back to the actual narrow question on deck about state’s rights. The state's whole case is built upon the premise that the State of Hawaii has "indisputable perfect title” to the “ceded lands.” Well guess what? If their title was “indisputable” and “perfect” why are they in court? And why have they been in court over this issue for 14 years? Because there is a dispute! There is a question of title! The injunction leveled against the State of Hawaii by the State Supreme Court in January 2008 caused the State to run crying to the U.S. Supreme Court saying, “No fair, no fair! The Apology Law would force us to give Hawaiians back the lands stolen from them over 100 years ago! It’s ours fair and square because the U.S. gave it to us! The Apology means nothing. We have “perfect title!” [Ironically, this is the very Apology Law that the state embraces in their support the Akaka Bill. But that’s another story.] The Apology Law undermines the state’s “perfect title” claim. The State Court ordered the injunction because the Apology Law clearly shows that there is a dispute -- a big one! The Apology Law flatly says that the seizure of Hawaii was illegal and that the native Hawaiians never gave up their claims (title) to the lands of Hawaii. These two glaring admissions of fact, framed within this federal Apology Law (USPL 103-150) don’t merely suggest a problem of land title; they cast serious doubt on the very legitimacy of the State of Hawaii. How can something that results from an illegal act now be considered legal, or in this case, perfect? The illegality of the initial act (the seizure of the lands of Hawaii) means that anything else based on that illegal act is likewise, illegal; and that means the State of Hawaii and its construct, OHA are illegal entities. That means the only valid, lawful claimant to the lands and jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Islands is, after all these years, the still-existing Hawaiian Kingdom. That is why the state claimed right off the bat that it had “indisputable” “perfect title.” The state was desperately trying to keep the court from inquiring about any other option regarding title by eliminating that, first off, as a point of contention. But the court’s refusal to wear such blinders was unnerving to the state. You could almost hear the state attorney general saying to the court, “focus! focus!” But just because the state took a beating, doesn’t mean OHA fared much better. Probably the most egregious action that day was by OHA when it chose to agree with the state’s "perfect title" position and by doing so, failing to present the Native Hawaiians' un-relinquished claims as a challenge to the state. They virtually abandoned the Native Hawaiian land claim implicit in the Apology Law! By doing so, they virtually abandoned the Native Hawaiians; the clients they purport to represent! At best it was a stupid legal maneuver; at worst it was a shameful betrayal. OHA never challenged the state’s “perfect title” claim and argued instead that according to state laws, the state had a “fiduciary duty,” sort of a moral obligation, to take care of the Native Hawaiians. That led Justice Ginsburg to ask, “The Native Hawaiians -- they do get 20 percent of the proceeds, correct?” And the OHA attorney to answer, “That's correct…as a matter of State law they get 20 percent of the revenue from the ceded-lands trust…” (we all looked incredulously at each other…since when?) Then he clarified, “…though the amount of that revenue has itself been the subject of protracted and unresolved litigation.” Oh, so we get 20%, but not yet! The check’s in the mail… Later, Justice Kennedy stated to the OHA attorney: “Your whole case rests on a cloud on the title in favor of your clients. But you -- you ignore the cloud on the title that has been entered against the State.” So, OHA’s strategy is: don’t press for the Native Hawaiian’s outstanding claim on the land, but instead, shift to begging for handouts from the state because, according to “state law,” the state has a “fiduciary duty” to take care of Native Hawaiians. OHA in essence was making a pitch (in the Supreme Court of the United States!) for a welfare claim, not a land claim! In my opinion, both the state and OHA were way out of their league in this court. But you can’t blame them. They had a flimsy case to begin with; one in which they are trying to defend a situation that resulted from a long series of illegal actions. It’s very hard to defend a string of lies. Two good things came from this: 1) the state and OHA have proven they have nothing to stand on, and 2) there is now a gaping doorway for the Hawaiian Kingdom to walk through, assert itself and claim its rightful title the lands of Hawaii.
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