Media Legends, Ceded Lands

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 04, 2009

The recent passing of City Councilwoman and former KHON-TV news executive Barbara Marshall, news anchor-man extraordinaire Bob Sevey and editorial cartoonist Corky Trinidad is a loss not only to family and friends, but also to our entire community. Their collective impact on the lives of generations of Hawaii residents (and beyond) cannot be measured. Suffice to say their resolute professionalism, indisputable integrity and commitment to the common good serve as excellent examples of accomplishment the next generation of journalists and editorialists should emulate. I can only imagine the heavenly debate these three are engaging in as they gaze upon our earthly challenges.

three star

Although the mention of ceded lands may make the average Joe’s eyes glaze over, the social and financial impact of its resolution will be felt by generations of Hawaii citizens. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars as well as the relationship between Native Hawaiians and the state and federal governments.


The most recent chapter in the ceded-lands dispute was played out before the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney General Mark Bennett provided the argument that the state of Hawaii should not be enjoined by a Hawaii State Supreme Court decision in transferring or selling ceded lands. The HSSC’s decision to prevent the state from doing so is based on the content of the 1993 Apology Resolution signed by President Bill Clinton. However, it is clear the state enjoys the authority to engage in these transactions from several different sources.

The primary authority is the 1959 Admissions Act, which sets five categories of conditions, including the advancement of education and housing for Native Hawaiians. Those in opposition to the state engaging in such commerce include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and various Native Hawaiian organizations. Despite the celebration of the Apology Resolution by many, it may be the downfall for those in opposition to the state’s position.

The Apology Resolution is just that - a resolution. It is not a legally binding instrument like a statute or an act, it’s merely an expression or a sentiment.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will find the Hawaii court decision has no grounds by invoking the content of the Apology Resolution, and the state will prevail.

A sidebar irony is when the state court invoked the Apology Resolution, it opened the door for a legal challenge in the federal courts. That’s why the Supreme Court can, and will, trump the Hawaii court.

Oh, and despite the Hawaii Legislature recently passing its own resolution asking the Lingle administration to drop its challenge, the Legislature will ultimately have a role in the disposition of ceded lands.

The Supreme Court usually takes several months, if not longer, to adjudicate a case. According to Bennett, it appears, based on the court’s reaction to the respective arguments, that a decision will be rendered sooner than later.


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