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Hawaii News

High court will hear Hawaiian-fund suit

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The Hawaii Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider the state’s challenge to a lawsuit by Native Hawaiians who want the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to seek adequate funding from the state.

The suit asks for a court order directing the department to seek "sufficient" money from state lawmakers to provide homestead lots to Native Hawaiians on its waiting list.

The lawsuit had been dismissed in 2009, but the Intermediate Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit in January.

In a two-page order, the high court granted a request by the state to review the appeals court’s ruling. The court also said it will schedule a hearing for oral arguments.

The suit, filed by six Native Hawaiians in 2007, asks that the state abide by the state Constitution and seek adequate funding. One of the six has since died.

NATIVE Hawaiian Legal Corp. attorneys who represent the five hailed the appeals court ruling as a "very significant decision."

They said the department repeatedly has not asked for sufficient general funds in the past 30 years, even though the number of Native Hawaiian applicants waiting for residential, ranch and agricultural lots has risen to more than 23,000.

State attorneys contended the lawsuit presented a "political question" that should be resolved by the Legislature, not the courts.

The amount of money the department must seek, should the Native Hawaiians prevail, is not clear. The suit was dismissed before that issue could be addressed.

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