Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Star-Bulletin file photo
Big Island rancher Harold "Freddy" Rice, who filed the lawsuit
which led to today's Supreme Court decision, likes to read the
newspaper while eating breakfast with friends at the
Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea.

Rice: It’s about protecting
the Constitution,
not ‘racist’

A look at the lawyers

By Christine Donnelly


The Big Island rancher at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case disputing whether Hawaiians should be allowed to hold their own elections has been called a racist by some, a pawn by others. Harold "Freddy" Rice lets none of it bother him.

"That just goes over my head. The shoe doesn't fit so I don't put it on," Rice said Monday. "To me, this is all about protecting the Constitution and everyone's right to vote."

The 65-year-old Rice is scion of a family that came to Hawaii as missionaries in the mid-1800s and transformed through the generations into a wealthy, powerful clan of politicians, businessmen and ranchers. Rice said he prefers the lifestyle of a working cowboy who counts team-roping steers among his favorite activities.

Growing up, Rice attended Punahou School in Honolulu and then Cornell University in New York. But a privileged upbringing and Ivy League education did not insulate him from failure. His Big Island ranching operation went broke in 1983 and he spent the next few years working as a charter fishing boat skipper before returning to cattle ranching in 1995.

He now lives in Waimea with his wife, Gail, and runs a cattle ranch on the slopes of Mauna Kea. He has four grown children from a previous marriage and several grandchildren, including two who are part-Hawaiian.

Reached today after the Supreme Court decision, Rice said: "I'm just going to enjoy this. I have no future plans. I think this validates that the question needed to be asked, and now we have an answer."

He said he did not plan to celebrate today. "I'm going up. ... Some cattle need to be moved to a fresh pasture."

Rice says he sued in 1996 to overturn the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Hawaiians-only elections because he believes all residents, who help fund OHA through tax dollars, deserve a vote in how the agency is run.

But critics say his lawsuit put millions of dollars worth of government programs helping Hawaiians at risk. OHA trustee Mililani Trask has described Rice as a modern member of the "missionary gang" who won't be content until all Hawaiian entitlement programs are dead.

She has said that he's just like his great-grandfather, William Hyde Rice, an early missionary appointed by Queen Lili'uokalani as governor of Kauai who later helped engineer the "Bayonet Constitution" that disenfranchised Hawaiians in 1887.

Rice counters that he is not opposed to all programs favoring Hawaiians, but believes they should be based on need, not race.

And he's proud of his ancestors, who also include grandfather Harold Waterhouse "Pop" Rice, who was a powerful politician and businessman on Maui, and father Harold Frederick "Oskie" Rice, a champion polo player who owned a Maui ranch.

Rice said he has no regrets about taking on the case, backed in part by the Campaign for a Colorblind America, a conservative non-profit group opposed to affirmative action. "I think it's been a good education for the public."

A look at the lawyers
who argued the case

These attorneys were key figures in the case; all but
Goemans presented arguments before the
U.S. Supreme Court in October:



Bullet Theodore B. Olson, who represented Harold "Freddy" Rice before the Supreme Court, is known as a passionate and articulate defender of conservative causes with numerous cases before the high court.

A partner in the Washington law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP since 1972, Olson co-chairs the firm's Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group.

In 1981, he was appointed by then-President Ronald Reagan as an assistant attorney general and served as the executive branch's principal legal adviser before returning to his firm in 1984.

Olson received his law degree in 1965 from the University of California (Boalt Hall), where he was a member of the California Law Review and Order of the Coif, and his bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific.

Olson took the case pro-bono. The Campaign for a Color-Blind America, a national legal defense foundation that supports anti-affirmative action causes, has helped pay other costs.


Bullet John W. Goemans, Esq., represented fellow Kamuela resident Harold "Freddy" Rice for years before arguing Rice's case against the state in district court and the federal court of appeals.

"I was concerned about the OHA franchise restriction as was he (Rice), and he agreed to challenge that restriction and I ultimately filed suit, in 1996," Goemans said.

Almost two years ago, Goemans moved to Washington, D.C., to be of counsel to Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP, which represented Rice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Goemans, a Wisconsin native, moved to Hawaii directly after his graduation from the University of Virginia Law School. At the time he was Edward Kennedy's assistant in the 1960 presidential elections. He was admitted to the bar in 1962, while working as director of the U.S. Department of State in Honolulu. In 1964, he set up a private practice, which currently represents clients in Honolulu, Kamuela, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

From 1965 to 1967, Goemans served in the state House of Representatives. He traveled as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1964 and 1968. He was state Deputy Attorney General from 1967 to 1970, and in 1968, he was a member of the First Hawaii State Constitutional Convention.


Bullet U.S. Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman, filed what Hawaiian activists hailed as an eloquent "friend of the court" brief and also helped present the state's case during oral arguments.

Sometimes known as the "10th justice," the Solicitor General represents the U.S. government in proceedings before the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Waxman has been in the post since 1997 and before that held a variety of jobs in the U.S. Department of Justice, which he joined in 1994.

He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1973 and his law degree in 1977 from Yale Law School, where he was managing editor of the Yale Law Journal.


Bullet John G. Roberts Jr. has presented oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in more than 30 cases and it was that experience and an impeccable legal pedigree that prompted the state to hire him to present its side.

Roberts, a partner in the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson, concentrates on Supreme Court and appellate litigation as head of the firm's appellate practice group.

Early in his career he clerked for William H. Rehnquist, who at the time was an associate justice on 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and is now Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1982, then-President Reagan appointed Roberts to the White House staff, where he served as associate counsel to the president until joining Hogan & Hartson in 1986.

Roberts left the firm from 1989 to 1993 to serve as principal deputy U.S. solicitor general, representing the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals.

Roberts earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1976 and his law degree in 1979 from Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Compiled by Star-Bulletin staff

Bullet Feb. 23, 2000: The U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote strikes down the practice of allowing only native Hawaiians to vote in OHA elections.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin