County Response to Supreme Court Ruling on Hokulia Bypass

Attorneys for the County of Hawaii are very pleased with Wednesday’s 85-page state Supreme Court ruling on condemnation actions regarding the Hokulia bypass in West Hawaii.

The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday held that the County’s successful second condemnation of property was legal and not barred by the doctrine called “abatement.”  Had the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, there would have been significant delays in the opening of the Hokuli’a bypass.

The case has been returned by the Supreme Court to the Circuit Court in Kona for Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra to make additional findings on two other issues.  Judge Ibarra had previously ruled there was a legitimate public purpose in the County’s condemnation of this property.  One of the findings Judge Ibarra must now make is whether the County’s condemnation was a pretext to conferring a private benefit on Oceanside, the developer of the project, as alleged by the landowners.  After Judge Ibarra makes these findings, another judgment will be issued.  If this judgment is entered in favor of the County, the condemnation will stand and the project will continue to move forward as planned.

Attorneys for the County of Hawaii are currently reviewing Wednesday’s 85-page state Supreme Court ruling on condemnation actions regarding the Hokulia bypass in West Hawaii.

The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday said the case should be returned to Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra to consider the landowners’ defense that the land sought by the County through condemnation was for a purpose other than the public interest.

“The decision of the Court does not appear to be fatal as to the bypass road but will require some additional factual findings of the Court before another judgment is filed,” said deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic Wednesday afternoon. “Needless to say we are carefully reading the opinion to distill salient issues.”

Deputy Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela, lead counsel for the County in this case, is off island and has been notified. He will return on Monday.

“There may be additional proceedings, at this time it is too early to tell,” Udovic said. “We will be reviewing the opinion carefully in the next few days.”

Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said only one of the three decisions by the Supreme Court Wednesday was a final decision on whether the first condemnation action in the case abated the second, and that was issued in favor of the County. On the other two, the Supreme Court simply remanded the case back to Judge Ibarra, Ashida said.

“If Judge Ibarra supplements the record with appropriate findings and the Supreme Court believes they are adequate, (and) assuming Judge Ibarra enters findings and orders consistent with what he did earlier, all three issues may be resolved in favor of the County,” Ashida said. “In sum, it is too early to tell.”

Ashida said the major story is that the County prevailed on the abatement issue. “Had we not won the abatement issue, the project would have been halted.”

“So long as Judge Ibarra enters findings consistent with what he did previously, and the Coupes’ attorneys are not able to prove to Judge Ibarra’s satisfaction that the public purpose established by the County was a pretext to give Oceanside a private benefit, the Coupes will not prevail,” Ashida said.

5 Responses

  1. Damon, you could’ve just uploaded the press release to your
    blog (like I did on mine). It would’ve avoided any confusion.

    Damon – Anyone that knows me… knows it was not my intent to confuse. Many people, including myself, do not like going to a blog, and then having to uplink to one more page to read the information that is pertinent to what they are looking for. Many times I read your blog a few days later and find little hidden gems that had I not really been looking for them… I may not have found them. I’m linking all further releases on the side of my page so there shouldn’t be any confusion in the future.

  2. I had a chance to digest the HSC’s majority opinion tonight

    On face value, it felt like I had lump of coal in my stocking. But after reading the WHT article, the HSC decision,and Hawaii County’s press release it seemed neither side lost anything by this ruling.The only folks that did lose are the residents of Ka’u and South Kona who have to endure more traffic congestion while this legal wrangling continues.

    Damon – Gee… now you know how Puna residents have been feeling for the last 20 years.

  3. “We didn’t lose on every single issue” is about the best spin the County can put on the decision.

  4. They’re “very pleased” with a result that sends the case back to Judge Ibarra for useless fact finding on the ludicrous “pretext” issue, and opens the door to the Coupes getting damages? The ruling guarantees years more litigation before the road is built. I wonder how badly the County has to lose before they admit they lost.

  5. Is this a press release from the Corporation Counsel’s office? Some context would be nice.

    Damon – Sorry… It came from Mr. Bishop. (I figured “County Response” would be sufficient)… Not much was in the Headline of the PR. I’m not real familiar with the issue.

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