Thursday, October 17, 2019
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Thursday, September 03, 2015
Bridge Aina Lea: Federal Court Dismisses Most of Case
By Robert Thomas @ 9:09 PM :: 4679 Views :: Hawaii County , Development, Land Use

Hawaii Federal Court Gets Rid Of Most Claims Against Land Use Commission, But Allows Takings And Vested Rights Claims To Go Forward

by Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation, September 3, 2015

Here's the latest in a case that we've been following, which was in both state and federal court, Bridge Aina Lea v. Land Use Comm'n.

The litigation is a series of two lawsuits that originated in state court in the Third Circuit (Big Island), one an original jurisdiction civil rights lawsuit, the other an administrative appeal (that's a writ of administrative mandate for you Californians). The State removed the civil rights lawsuit to U.S. District Court in Honolulu and promptly moved to dismiss, and this portion of the case nearly caused us to flash back to our Federal Courts class in law school, since it raised a host of procedural questions such as the effect of removal, whether certain defendants are "persons" under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, whether the federal court must abstain from addressing the federal takings claim, whether there is a state damage remedy for deprivation of constitutional rights, and zoning estoppel under Hawaii law, among others.

Many of these issues were brought about as a result of Hawaii's unusual state-based zoning scheme, whereby all land in the four of Hawaii's five counties that exercise home rule was initially "classified" by the State into one of four classifications (urban, agricultural, rural, conservation). The four counties are allowed to zone the land within the "urban" and "agricultural" districts into the more familiar Euclidean zones that we're familiar with. What most folks would call a "rezoning" is called a "boundary amendment" or "reclassification" when dealing with the State land use designations, and the Land Use Commission is the agency that takes action, not the counties.

The cases arose out of a reclassification of land from urban to agricultural, and, in the words of the latest federal court federal court order, "Plaintiff Bridge Aina Lea, LLC ('Bridge'), the owner of the parcel, claims that, in reclassifying the land, the Commission and certain commissioners violated Bridge's rights under the United States Constitution, the Hawaii Constitution, and various Hawaii laws." Order at 1-2. For more background on the federal action, see this post, "Guest Post: Federal Courts Flashback - Takings And Vested Rights Challenge To Land Use Commission."

Initially, the District Court stayed the federal action to allow the administrative appeal to get resolved in state court. Eventually, the Hawaii Supreme Court held the Commission was wrong when it reclassified the land to agricultural, but only because it did not comply with the requirements of state law (the Commission did not make specific findings of fact as required by statute and did not resolve the order to show cause within one calendar year), but rejected the owner's state and federal constitutional claims. The federal case, which by then was in the Ninth Circuit -- which held off its decision pending the ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court -- was sent back to the District Court.

In this order issued last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii got rid of most of the federal case. It's a long decision (65 pages), but is full of the issues we are familiar with:

  • The Hawaii Supreme Court's decision in Bridge's favor rendered its federal court request for an injunction preventing the reclassification moot. 
  • An injunction is not an available remedy for a taking -- only just compensation. That's a due process claim. 
  • Preclusion principles bar Bridge's due process and equal protection claims. "Those issues, contained in Counts I and III, were decided by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the state administrative appeal." Order at 34-35. 
  • Hawaii law does not allow for money damages as a remedy for equitable estoppel, only equitable (injunctive) relief. And the court already held that injunctive relief is moot (see above). 
  • And immunity. Lots of immunity. See Order at 45-60.
  • You can't sue officials in their individual capacities for a taking. Order at 60-63.

So here's what's left in the federal case: the takings claim seeking just compensation against the Commission and certain commissioners in their official capacities, as well as the vested rights claim for damages against the same parties.

The portion of the District Court's order that stands out the most to us is its analysis of issue and claim preclusion. [Sidebar: some of us raised on "collateral estoppel" and "res judicata" still can't get used to the more precise -- but less law-ish -- "preclusion" labels.] Recall that Bridge split its claim between two state court lawsuits, an "appeal" from the Commission to circuit court under the Administrative Procedures Act (again, a Writ of Administrative Mandamus to you Californians), and a separate original jurisdiction action which asserted its constitutional and common law claims. Which it was entitled to do. Indeed, which it was required to do, based on Williamson County, at least for its takings claims. Based on federal question jurisdiction, the Commission removed the latter complaint to federal court. Again, fine with us.

But although the Hawaii Supreme Court was just supposed to be dealing with the state law administrative law issues, the court reached out and "[i]n the interest of judicial economy" decided the federal constitutional issues. Thus, when the federal court was eventually presented with the federal questions, it says too bad, so sad, you already had your shot, even though the Hawaii Supreme Court really wasn't acting on an record developed in the course of an original jurisdiction lawsuit, it was only on an administrative record. An argument raised, ironically, by the Commission:

As a preliminary matter, the LUC argues that the circuit court erred in ruling on DW’s and Bridge’s due process and equal protection arguments because the LUC had no opportunity to present evidence and did not have the benefit of a trial by jury. The LUC argues that it was “inappropriate” for the circuit court to rule on these constitutional claims under such ;circumstances, and that in doing so, the court “deprived the LUC and Commissioners of any process whatsoever.”

DW Aina Lea Dev. LLC v. Land Use Comm'n, No. SCAP-13-00000091, slip op. at 70 (Haw. Nov. 24, 2014).

So once again, a property owner's federal constitutional claims -- raised in a federal forum -- get decided by a state court. We suppose that this may be a no harm, no foul situation since Bridge did originally raise its federal constitutional claims in state court, and it was the Commission which removed the case to federal court. So Bridge couldn't squawk too loudly about having those claims decided by the Hawaii Supreme Court and being deprived of a federal forum. They got what they asked for, after all. But perhaps the only reason Bridge filed its federal claims in state court was because Williamson County required it to. This the head-spinning stuff that we get under that case's state procedures requirement.

The only question we had is whether this would be a fair result if Bridge could have filed its original jurisdiction action in federal court. It just doesn't seem so.

PDF: Order Granting Revised Motion to Dismiss, Bridge Aina Lea, LLC v. State of Hawaii Land Use Comm'n, No....

 

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940

ABCDEFG Blog

ACA Signups Hawaii

ACCE

ALEC

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii

AMVETS-Hawaii

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

Conservative Forum for Hawaii

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DeedySupport.com

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Families for Educational Choice

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

HIEC.Coop 

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube

HPACC

Hump Day Report

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

Judgepedia Hawaii

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

KeyWiki

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii

NARTH

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Salvage The Rail

Save the Plastic Bag

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Cope

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT