Judge takes motion for partial summary judgment in Maunakea Access Road lawsuit ‘under advisement’

  • A view from Pu’u Huluhulu on July 19, 2019, at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Maunakea Access Road. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald file photo)

A motion seeking partial summary judgment against the state over its management of land around the Maunakea Access Road was heard Tuesday in Honolulu.

First Circuit Court Judge Lisa W. Cataldo took the motion under advisement and did not rule, instead asking counsel for the plaintiffs to submit written response to objections raised by Deputy Attorney General Ryan K. P. Kanakaole over declarations. The response is due by Aug. 21.


The judge also did not set a hearing to rule on the motion, but indicated attorneys in the matter may request a status conference.

The lawsuit, filed in February by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, argues the departments of Transportation and Land and Natural Resources have used the more than 65 acres of land around the Maunakea Access Road illegally and without providing compensation for decades.

The plaintiffs, Big Island Hawaiian community leaders Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele, Edward Halealoha Ayau and Kelii W. Iaone Jr., motioned for partial summary judgment in the case in mid-July.

According to the complaint, the state failed to obtain authorization from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands or the Hawaiian Homes Commission to build the Maunakea Access Road (MKAR) on DHHL land in 1964. Therefore, subsequent use of the land has been unlawful, and the DHHL has failed in its duties to act exclusively in the interests of its beneficiaries, the lawsuit argues.

Iaone and Kanahele were among more than 30 Hawaiian elders, or kupuna, arrested on July 17, 2019, during the months-long occupation of the access road by people protesting the planned construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope. Ayau is a former DHHL employee who resigned his position in 2019 in protest of DHHL’s failure to act in its beneficiaries’ interest regarding the access road.

The motion asks the Oahu judge to declare that defendants Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay and Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Suzanne Case breached their trust obligations and violated the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 by asserting control over Hawaiian home lands underlying the MKAR and using the same without compensation and that those defendants are liable for breach of the Hawaiian home lands trust.

Further, it asks the court declare that control of Hawaiian home lands underlying the Maunakea Access Road rests solely with members of Hawaiian Homes Commission and to find that the 6.27-mile road is not a state or public highway.


The motion also asked for a declaration that Hawaiian Homes Commission members Patricia Kahanamoku-Teruya, Randy Awo, Pauline Namuo, Zachary Helm, Dennis Neves, Michael Kaleikini, Russell Kaupu and David B. Kaapu (DHHL Defendants) breached their trust obligations and violated the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act by failing to redress the state departments’ interference with the commission’s exclusive control and their rent-free use of the access road.

The Department of the Attorney General said in its motion in opposition to the partial summary judgment request that the plaintiffs don’t meet their burden to prove summary judgment is entitled.

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