8085 – The Plots Thicken


Just because you apologize doesn’t mean you have to pay them back. This case involved the apology of the United States to native Hawaiians for taking their island. Back in 1993, Congress enacted a joint resolution acknowledging the illegal overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii one hundred years earlier. The resolution also made it clear that the apology did not imply that any money would be changing hands. This case involved certain Crown lands on the island of Maui which were given back to Hawaii to be held in public trust for the support of native Hawaiians. When the Hawaiian Housing and Community Development Corporation wanted to develop the land, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which manages the trust, sued and won in the Hawaii Supreme Court. But the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the congressional apology did not create any substantive rights over Crown lands. So maybe another apology will be in order, although native Hawaiians are probably getting tired of losing land, getting an apology and losing land all over again.


Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 07-1372, March 31, 2009, Alito, J., USLW, Vol. 77, No. 38, Pg. 1606 4-7-09