History of the Case
Governor's Task Force
In 1988, Governor John Waihee adopted task force recommendations to resolve breach of trust claims by Native Hawaiians against the State of Hawai‘i in the administration of the Hawaiian Homelands program. This process resulted in the establishment of a Hawaiian Claims Office Individual Claims Panel (“Panel”) in 1991 pursuant to the requirements of Hawaii Revised Statues Chapter 674.
Under Chapter 674, Native Hawaiians who alleged a breach of trust in the management and disposition of trust resources between 1959 and 1988 were entitled to pursue their claims for breach of trust administratively and judicially. Because the Panel did not complete its work by 1999, the Legislature extended its existence for one year. However, that bill was vetoed by the governor.
The termination of the Panel operations left the beneficiaries in a classic “Catch-22.” In order to file a claim in Circuit Court, the claimants had to reject Legislative action taken on their claims. However, the Legislature had taken action on only one of the 4,000 plus claims filed by the 2,721 claimants.
Lawsuit Filed in 1999
A lawsuit brought by beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust was filed in Circuit Court on December 29, 1999. Under Chapter 674, the lawsuit could only be filed on behalf of beneficiaries who filed claims with the Panel by August 31, 1995. The case was titled Kalima v. State of Hawai‘i. In June 2000, Judge Victoria Marks certified Count I of the Complaint as a class action and ruled in Plaintiffs’ favor that they had a right to sue for breaches of trust in circuit court. See Judge Marks' August 29,2000 Order. The State filed their notice of appeal on December 20, 2001.
Hawai‘i Supreme Court Ruling
On June 30, 2006, six years after Judge Marks certified Count I of the Complaint, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled that claimants have the right to sue for monetary damages in Circuit Court for breaches of trust that occurred between 1959 and 1998. See Hawaii Supreme Court Ruling.
Subclass Liability Certification
After the Supreme Court ruling in 2006, the Plaintiffs amended their complaint to pursue the claims on a subclass wide basis. See Second Amended Complaint.
Plaintiffs then moved to certify five subclasses to make the case more manageable. Judge Marks certified five subclasses: Waiting List, Ultra Vires, Uninhabitable Awards, Lost Application, and Successor Rights. Subclass 1, Waiting List, is by far the largest of the subclasses, including almost all of the class members. See Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification on Liability for Subclass 1 Through 4 and 6 Filed March 20, 2007.
Liability, Causation and Fact of Damage Trial
The trial for the liability portion of Subclass 1, Waiting List, started on August 4, 2009. The trial ended on September 11, 2009. Approximately three weeks later, on November 3, 2009, Judge Eden Hifo rendered her written decision and ruled that the State of Hawaii breached its trust obligations and was liable for the delays in receiving homesteads by the beneficiaries. See 2009-11-03 Decision Regarding Liability and Legal Causation Following Trial.
Judge Hifo retired at the end of 2009 and the Honorable Judge Virginia Crandall was assigned to the case.
Waiting List Damages Computation Subclass Certified
On June 6, 2011, Judge Crandall recertified the Waiting List Liability Subclass to include the computation of damages. This allowed a Subclass-wide damages model to be adopted that would measure each applicants damages by the length of time they waited for a homestead. See June 6, 2011 Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion to Recertify Waiting List Subclass.
Trial on Method of Computing Classwide Damages
On October 7, 2014, Judge Crandall presided over a trial to determine the method of computing damages for each subclass member. See October 7, 2014 Trial Order.
Special Master and Claims Administrator Appointed to Resolve All Subclass Claims
Judge Virginia Lea Crandall has granted Plaintiffs’ motions to establish a Special Master and Claims Administration Process for final computation of damages for all Class Members. The Special Master will compute individual damages for the Waiting List Subclass based upon application and award date. The Special Master will also oversee a separate process to evaluate all non-Waiting List Subclass claims. See July 26, 2017 Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion to Establish Claims Process to Resolve All Claims.
Court Enters Final Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs
Judge Virginia Lea Crandall entered Final Judgment on January 9, 2018 in favor of the Waiting List Subclass. Final Judgment means that Plaintiffs have prevailed in the case, subject to any appeal taken by the State of Hawai'i or Plaintiffs.
State Appeals Final Judgment
On January 9, 2018, the State appealed the Final Judgment in favor of the Waiting List Subclass. The State contends that it did not breach its trust obligations to Plaintiffs and should not be liable for damages. Read the State’s Civil Appeal Docketing Statement for more information.
The State of Hawai’i has filed a Notice of Appeal of the Circuit Court’s January 9, 2018 Judgment in favor of the Waiting List Subclass. The State contends that it did not breach its trust obligations to Plaintiffs and should not be liable for damages. Read the State’s Civil Appeal Docketing Statement for more information on the State’s position.
Plaintiffs’ Cross-Appeal Final Judgment
Plaintiffs intend to file a cross-appeal by February 20, 2018.