Foes Vow to Continue Legal Battle If Superferry Bill Passes

Mark Bennett
Mark Bennett
Judge Joseph Cardoza
Judge Joseph Cardoza

MAUI (KHNL) --  "We're ready to appeal whatever decision, if it's not in our favor, all the way back to the Hawaii Supreme Court," said Isaac Hall, a lawyer representing environmental groups on Maui, via telephone.

As legislation on the Hawaii Superferry sails through the state Capitol, opponents are prepared to fight on.

More legal wrangling in the Hawaii Superferry legal saga.

Friday, the House of Representatives passed the original Superferry bill.  And on Monday, an amended Senate bill will go before a hearing.

But Saturday, the Maui lawyer involved in the Superferry case says the legal drama is far from over.

Isaac Hall, the environmental lawyer who won the Maui Superferry court case, said he is disappointed with the special session.

As the legislature moves ahead in crafting a Superferry bill, Hall said he will continue to keep the ship from coming back to Maui until an environmental review has been completed.

Three days of the legislative special session have already seen dozens of testimonies. Lawmakers asked some tough questions as they look to craft a compromise bill that allows the Hawaii Superferry to resume service while an environmental impact statement takes place.

CEO John Garibaldi is optimistic that his ship can start back up soon, but others are not happy with the special session.

"When the legislators came in, they said it wasn't a done deal, but it appears that it always had been a done deal from beginning to end," said Hall.

The Lingle administration hopes a compromise bill gets passed on Wednesday, but some in Maui plan to fight it out in the courtroom once again, if that bill becomes law.

"The legislature apparently is going to act," said Hall. "At that point, they're going to have to bring that act back to Judge Cardoza and ask him to lift the injunction and then we will vigorously oppose that."

At the heart of the debate is whether passing this bill violates the Hawaii Constitution.  Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett said it is within lawmakers' rights to pass it.

"And in fact, reacting to court case to change the law prospectively is exactly what legislatures are allowed to do," said Bennett.

If the bill passes and signed by the governor, then it's back to Judge Cardoza's courtroom.

"The decision was a statutory interpretation so if the statutes change then the decision could very well be different but it really depends on what the new statute says and how the judge evaluates it," said Prof. Jon Van Dyke, a constitutional law expert and law professor at the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law.

Still uncertain and murky waters in the Hawaii Superferry's legal voyage.

KHNL spoke with Superferry CEO John Garibaldi Saturday afternoon, and he said he is optimistic lawmakers can craft a bill that will withstand legal challenges.