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U.S. Supreme Court asks for brief on Hawaiian homelands case

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 3:49 p.m. HST, Dec 12, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court invited today the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief on a challenge by five Hawaii residents seeking the same property tax exemptions granted to Native Hawaiian lessees of Hawaiian homelands.

The non-Native Hawaiian residents are asking the high court to review a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court earlier this year that the five do not have legal standing to press their challenge.

The request for a review was on the U.S. Supreme Court's agenda at its Friday private conference. 

At least four of the nine justices must agree to review the case for the high court to accept it.

In a one-sentence order, the justices said the solicitor general "is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States."

Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Act in 1921.  The law set aside 200,000 acres that once belonged to the Hawaiian kingdom to lease land to Native Hawaiians at $1 a year.  Congress' Admissions Act that made Hawaii a state required that the act be included in the state constitution.

The five are alleging the exemptions granted by the state, the city and Neighbor Island counties are racially discriminatory and violate the U.S. Constitution's 14th amendment mandating equal protection under the law.

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