Hawaii Supreme Court rules in favor of Hawaiian homelands beneficiaries

Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 at 10:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than two decades, there’s a new ruling over the lengthy Department of Hawaiian Homelands wait list.

It could mean the state pays tens of millions of dollars to beneficiaries.

The Hawaii Supreme Court said the state must pay its beneficiaries for delays.

Some applied nearly 60 years ago and many have passed away still waiting – like Raynette Ah Chong’s father.

“I’m actually representing my father. My father passed in 2001. So, I became his representative,” said Ah Chong.

Ah Chong’s father, Joseph L. Ching Sr., put his name on the wait list in 1962.

He died in 2001 still waiting for a home.

“Lets finish this thing. Let’s end it already. It’s 20 plus years already. How many more people gatta die?” Ah Chong said.

In a unanimous opinion, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the state must pay damages to more than 2,700 who spent decades on that wait list.

The lawsuit was filed in 1991.

“It’s a tragedy that it’s been drawn out this way. But the state has decided to take a scorched-earth approach to it and instead of doing what the Supreme Court today recognized was the just thing to do and finding a way to adequately compensate people for the delays form this mismanagement of the trust, they’ve just fought it tooth and nail until now,” attorney Carl Varady said.

The court agreed the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands failed to manage and preserve trust property and maintain adequate records.

Varady said it's hard to calculate an exact cost because that damages will be measured using Fair Market Rental Value for each claimant.

But that the state should expect to pay tens of millions of dollars.

“We have 200,000 plus acres in the trust that can’t seem to be developed in any kind of way that adequately addresses the needs of the beneficiaries or fulfills the state’s solemn promise to rehabilitate Hawaiian through homesteading,” said Varady.

Delays have dragged on, and 400 of the 2,700 beneficiaries involved in this dispute have died.

But their families can still be compensated.

Ah Chong is fighting so her children don’t have to fight for her.

“I’m standing here for my deceased father. I’ve already been grooming my daughter and my sons to stand here for me,” she said.

The state said it’s reviewing the decision and had no comment

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