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Wednesday, April 5, 2000

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Isle federal court
told to resolve
the Rice case

An appeals court orders
proceedings on how to implement
the Supreme Court decision

Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered new federal court proceedings in Hawaii on the Rice vs. Cayetano lawsuit in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's February ruling in the case.

The action means state officials could soon receive guidance from the court about how trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs can be selected.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable The Supreme Court's Feb. 23 ruling struck down state law allowing only native Hawaiians to vote for OHA trustees.

The high court ruled in favor of Caucasian rancher Harold "Freddy" Rice, who said the voting restriction was unconstitutional racial discrimination.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court after U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled against Rice in 1997 and the 9th Circuit affirmed Ezra's decision in 1998.

The Supreme Court certified its decision on March 14 and sent the case back to the 9th Circuit.

The appeals court, in turn, said in today's one-paragraph order that it was vacating its 1998 opinion, reversing Ezra's earlier decision, and sending the case to U.S. District Court in Hawaii for further proceedings consistent with the high court's opinion.

Legal experts have said Ezra could simply enter a new decision saying Rice's constitutional rights were violated when the state barred him from voting in OHA elections, or he also could address such issues as whether the current OHA trustees should remain in office, or when new elections to fill their seats should be conducted.

OHA filed a motion in federal court last month to allow the agency to intervene in any proceedings stemming from the Rice case. The move helps protect OHA's trust assets and management, as well as keep the institutional integrity of OHA so that services to Hawaiians continue, according to chairman Clayton Hee.

The state and OHA also have asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to decide whether the sitting OHA trustees will retain their posts in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling.

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

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