Ninth Circuit to hear rail case - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ninth Circuit to hear rail case

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Cliff Slater Cliff Slater

Heading into Thursday's hearing before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, proponents and opponents of the city's $5.3 billion rail system expressed confidence in their positions.

"We look forward to presenting our case and responding to any questions the judges may have," said Dan Grabauskas, CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

"It's important that we get the project moving again so that we can deliver an efficient transportation system on time and on budget for the people of Oahu."

Cliff Slater of the anti-rail group Honolulutraffic.com said this today:

"Of any appeals court of the United States, the Ninth Circuit is where you want to go. They're very friendly on environmental issues."

But from a legal cost standpoint, the case can't end fast enough.

Hawaii News Now has learned that both sides have spent well over a million dollars in attorneys fees just on the federal case.

And both sides blame each other for running up the legal costs.

"What the city has done every stage of the game, they have run up the bill with an attempt to run us out of the business," said Slater.

"Never had a situation like this where a jurisdiction would be willing to spend this much money to try to freeze out an opponent."

The city says it's the opponents who are driving up the legal costs.

The city's tab for the federal lawsuit is in addition to another $1 million the city has spent or budgeted on legal fees for archeological, land use and other court challenges.

Thursday's hearing comes at the tail end of a two-year legal challenge filed by Honolulutraffic.com, whose members include University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth and former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Slater, who has opposed the rail system dating back to the 1980s, says the litigation won't end even if the Ninth Circuit rules against his group.

He said transit officials still have to explain why they didn't purpose an alternative route through Beretania Street. That, he said, will likely mean further court hearings.

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