Court: State Land Use Commission Exceeded Its Authority, Violated Developers' Due Process And Equal Protection Rights
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation.com
We've been meaning to post the latest developments in a case we've been following, 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) against the State of Hawaii Land Use Commission.
Our colleague Paul Schwind provided a comprehensive guest post on the civil rights case, and summarized the facts that led to both lawsuits here. In short, the Land Use Commission reclassified (rezoned) property as a sanction after it asserted the developers failed to comply with certain conditions, chief among them to provide a certain number of "affordable housing" units by a certain date.
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.
In early March, in the administrative appeal in state court, the court issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and Order Reversing and Vacating the State of Hawaii Land Use Commission's Final Order, DW Aina Lea Dev. LLC v. State of Hawaii Land Use Comm'n, No. 11--1-0112K (Haw. Third Cir. Mar. 6, 2012). It's a long ruling, and we won't go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that the court concluded that the LUC exceeded its statutory authority, and violated the developers' due process and equal protection rights. The entire order is worth a read if you follow similar issues.
The LUC intends to appeal the court's decision to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals, and as a consequence, in this order (Mar. 30, 2012) the federal court stayed further action in the federal case.
There will be more. Stay tuned.
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, DW Aina Lea Development LLC v. State of Hawaii Land Use Comm'n, No...