9th Cir: No Need For Pullman Abstention In Aina Lea After Hawaii Supreme Court Ruling
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, January 23, 2015
Last we checked in with the Bridge Aina Lea case, the Ninth Circuit said it would hold off on a decision until the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in the associated state court litigation (see 9th Cir Says "Let's Wait" On Hawaii Supreme Court To Rule In Bridge Aina Lea).
This is the federal court side of a case in which a developer is suing the State Land Use Commission (and certain Commissioners in their individual capacities) after the LUC reclassified its land on the Big Island from urban to agricultural use. Aina Lea filed two actions in state court: an administrative appeal under the administrative procedures act, and an original jurisdiction civil rights complaint. The defendants removed the latter action to federal court. The District Court, however, abstained. After oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit, the panel withdrew the case from submission to allow the Hawaii Supreme Court to make its ruling. Meanwhile, the state case chugged forward, and late last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued its opinion. After that, we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and today it did.
In this short memorandum opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel sort of affirmed ("While this case originally met Pullman’s requirements . . ."), but concluded that the issue was pretty much mooted by the Hawaii Supreme Court's ruling:
After the district court’s decision, and after oral argument to this court, the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i held that the LUC erred when it reclassified the parcel as agricultural without following the state’s procedural requirements under Section 205-4 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.
Slip op. at 3. The court remanded the case back to the District Court for "appropriate action" and a decision "in the first instance whether the LUC commissioners sued in their individual capacities are entitled to some form of judicial immunity." Slip op. at 4.
PDF: Bridge Aina Lea, LLC v. Chock, No. 12-15971 (9th Cir. Jan. 23, 2015) (Memorandum)