Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) issued a statement in response to the controversy surrounding Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s 100-acre Kauai estate, and will be introducing legislation through his House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs to address issues with “quiet title” and “Kuleana Lands” law.
“Zuckerberg is using the same legal loophole that sugar barons have historically exploited to scoop thousands of acres of Hawaiian lands. Zuckerberg’s actions may be legal and slightly more transparent, but it doesn’t make them right,” Ing said.
“We need to look at this issue through the eyes of the families affected. Here we have the world’s sixth richest individual, with a team of the world’s best lawyers, suing you, then asking you to make a deal. Obviously, no matter how expensive, you will lawyer up too.”
Ing claims that in these cases, defendants typically spend more on attorney fees than any payout they may receive. “So in the end, you have a mainland billionaire exploiting our legal system, and bullying his way through local residents, all to build his beach playground. This is not the intent of the law.”
Ing said that the State should take partial blame, because of outdated Kuleana Land title laws. A major problem with Kuleana Lands is that over generations of inheritances, land is divided into such tiny parcels that are legally worth nothing and not worth fighting over, if records can even be found. But Ing says these incremental losses adds up, and that of the original 23,000 acres designated Kuleana Lands, only a few thousand remain.
Ing claims there are better ways to address the dispute. “I was always taught that when disputes arise, to approach folks with aloha, talk story, and try to ho’oponopono. In Hawaii, you don’t initiate conversation by filing a lawsuit,” said Ing. “If Zuckerberg truly cared about Hawaiian culture, and these families, he would (1) let them hui together as a trust, rather than fighting them off one by one, then, (2) he would pay for and enter mediation to reach a fair deal without litigation.”
Ing’s bill, which is being drafted and will be submitted by next Wednesday, will require just that. “My proposal is fair and will help address this and hundreds of other quiet title cases that are weighted too heavily for the plaintiff. It goes well beyond sympathy for Native Hawaiians, because it could happen to anyone. We must stop mainland billionaires from stacking money to tilt Hawaii’s legal system against local residents.”