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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court-No. SCAP-18-0000432

No. SCAP-18-0000432, Thursday, May 16, 2019, 10 a.m.

CLARENCE CHING and MARY MAXINE KAHAULELIO, Plaintiffs-Appellees, vs. SUZANNE CASE, in her official capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and State Preservation Officer, BOARD OF OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, and DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, Defendants-Appellants.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorneys for Appellants:

Clyde J. Wadsworth and Ewan C. Rayner, Deputy Solicitor General; William J. Wynhoff and Daniel A. Morris, Deputy Attorneys General

Attorneys for Appellees:

David Kimo Frankel and Summer L.H. Sylva

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 12/20/18.

COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Pollack, and Wilson, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

In 1964, the Hawai i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) leased a 22,900-acre tract of ceded land on the island of Hawai i, known as the P hakuloa Training Area (PTA), to the United States for military purposes for a term of 65 years. The lease requires the United States to “remove and deactivate all live or blank ammunition upon completion of a training exercise or prior to entry” of the public and to take “reasonable action during its use of the premises” to prevent unnecessary damage to natural resources and remove or bury “trash, garbage, and other waste materials” resulting from the United States’ use of the land.

Clarence Ching and Mary Maxine Kahaulelio (collectively “the Plaintiffs”), filed suit against the DLNR, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), and the Chairperson of the BLNR (collectively “the Defendants”) alleging that they breached their constitutional duties, as trustees of the State’s ceded lands, to protect and maintain the public trust land by failing to take “concrete steps to investigate, monitor or ensure compliance” with the lease. The Plaintiffs requested a declaratory judgment that the Defendants breached their trust duties, an order to require the Defendants to fulfill these duties, and an injunction to bar the Defendants from negotiating an extension or renewal of the lease until the Defendants ensure that the terms of the existing lease have been fulfilled.

In response, the Defendants argued that (1) the case should be dismissed because the United States was a necessary and indispensable party, (2) there was not an actual controversy as required by the declaratory judgment statute, (3) the case involved a non-justiciable political question, and (4) they did not breach their trust duties.

Following trial, the Circuit Court for the First Circuit determined that the Defendants breached their trust duties by failing to inspect the condition of the leased land with sufficient frequency to ensure that the terms of the lease were being followed. The court concluded that the Defendants would further breach their trust duties if the lease was renewed without first determining that the terms of the existing lease have been complied with. Additionally, the court ordered the Defendants to develop a written plan to fulfill their duties and submit the plan to the court. The court also ordered the Defendants to institute contested case procedures so that members of the public could challenge the Defendants’ actions in discharging their trust duties.

The Defendants appealed the circuit court’s decision and the case was transferred to this court.