Sherry Broder


Federal Judge Rejects Suit Against OHA

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

A federal judge yesterday threw out a lawsuit by a Republican gubernatorial candidate who said the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and state administrators violated his 14th Amendment rights of equal protection.

Former Hawai'i Republican Party chairman John Carroll filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in October 2000. He accused OHA trustees and state officials of violating his federal constitutional right by using revenues from the ceded lands for Hawaiian-only programs.

In his lawsuit, Carroll attempted to stop OHA from spending money on race-based programs and prevent the state from paying the 20 percent share of ceded land revenue to OHA.

But U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday granted OHA's motion for a summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit. Ezra agreed with OHA and the state attorney general that Carroll never attempted to obtain any benefits from OHA and therefore had no standing to file the lawsuit.

"He's trying to challenge the requirement where OHA is giving out benefits only to Hawaiians yet he himself never claimed he really wanted any benefits from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs," said deputy attorney general Girard Lau. "So basically Judge Ezra is saying (Carroll) has no real stake in the outcome of the case."

Paul Hicks, Carroll's attorney, disagreed and said he will appeal Ezra's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Hicks said his client couldn't have applied for any OHA benefit, such as a business loan, because state laws prohibit non-Hawaiians from seeking aid.

"We have a state Constitution that classifies people by race. The whole thing is set up to be exclusive," Hicks said. "Some people get 'government' and Native Hawaiians and Hawaiians get what I will call 'government plus.'"

Attorney Sherry Broder, who represented OHA, said this case differed from the Rice vs. Cayetano case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Hawaiian-only elections were unconstitutional.

"Mr. Rice went to vote and he tried to vote and he couldn't vote," Broder said. "Mr. Carroll admits he never applied for any benefits and so he never had anything to complain about."

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