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Court rejects challenge to Hawaiian homes tax break

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 3:47 p.m. HST, Apr 27, 2011


The Hawaii Supreme Court has rejected a request by non-Native Hawaiians seeking real property tax exemptions given to Native Hawaiian lessees under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

In its decision today, the high court ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by John M. Corboy, Earl Arakaki and three other taxpayers. They argued that the exemptions for the lessees who must be Native Hawaiians constitute racial discrimination in violation of the U. S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

In a 46-page opinion written by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, the high court ruled that Corboy and the other taxpayers did not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the tax exemption and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

The court said Corboy and the other plaintiffs did not show they were interested in participating in the lease program and therefore did not establish that they were harmed to warrant the tax appeal court hearing the case.

The justices ordered the tax appeal court to dismiss the lawsuit.

"We're very pleased with the supreme court decision," Girard Lau, solicitor general in charge of the appeals section of the attorney general's office, said.

"It confirms that plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the tax exemptions for Hawaiian homesteaders and they also did not have standing to challenge the qualifications for becoming a Hawaiian homesteader."

Associate justices Paula Nakayama and James Duffy and substitute associate justice Rhonda Nishimura joined in the opinion. Associate Justice Simeon Acoba agreed with the dismissal, but wrote a separate concurring opinion.

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