Thursday, September 23, 1999

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OHA takes high-court case online

The innovative Web site serves
as a resource on the Rice vs. Cayetano
case and translates the legalese

By Pat Omandam


For those with questions on the Rice vs. Cayetano hearing scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court early next month, all the answers are now a mouse click away.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs unveiled a first-of-its-kind Web site yesterday dedicated to the racial discrimination case. The site was activated exactly two weeks before the Supreme Court justices are to hear oral arguments from attorneys representing an appeal by Harold "Freddy" Rice of the Big Island and defendant Gov. Ben Cayetano.

The site serves as a resource on the case, providing background as well as copies of the amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court briefs filed both in support and opposition of Rice's claim that he suffered racial discrimination because as a non-Hawaiian he was not allowed to vote in OHA elections.

"If you're not trained in this kind of legal stuff, it is difficult to try to translate it," said Coochie Cayan, secretary to OHA trustee Mililani Trask.

"Now people can read it and try to understand what it's all about," she said.

OHA spokesman Ryan Mielke said the Web site went online yesterday and is a small part of a $450,000 educational campaign approved by OHA trustees for the case. Mielke said the site is designed primarily to provide information, including the legal implications of a decision against the state and the history of native Hawaiians.

Currently, only briefs filed in support of Cayetano are posted. The opposing briefs should be online within a week, Mielke said.

"The bottom line is, it provides a wealth of information on the Rice vs. Cayetano case that is not available anywhere else, and it is presented in a credible way," Mielke said.

The site's plum- or mauve-colored home page shows the picture of a Hawaiian girl under the headline "The Future of Native Hawaiians Is in Jeopardy." From there, users can download information on the Supreme Court case, native Hawaiians, a Hawaii historical time line, the latest news, protective native rights, articles and reprints, lesson plans, the role of OHA and press kits.

Mielke said he doesn't know how much the Web site will cost to operate. It was designed under contract by Professional Communications, which will bill OHA once all the work is completed.

Other aspects of the $450,000 Rice vs. Cayetano educational campaign include public affairs planning both here and in Washington, D.C. That includes grass-roots events as well as writing opinion pieces in major publications, including the Washington Post.

The Web site address is

January '97 OHA Ceded Lands Ruling

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