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Saturday, April 8, 2000

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Lawyer may
sue against
Hawaiian benefits

He considers a reverse
discrimination lawsuit over
2 Hawaiian programs

By Pat Omandam


An attorney who represents Harold "Freddy" Rice said his law firm could file a reverse discrimination case in Hawaii within the next six months to strike down race-based educational and other programs for Hawaiians.

"You will be hearing about it very shortly," said attorney David Ross.

Such action would come on the heels of the Rice vs. Cayetano case, which was dismissed yesterday after U.S. District Chief Judge David A. Ezra said there was nothing left for the federal court to decide.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable In a narrow decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 23 struck down the state's Hawaiians-only Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections.

Ross, who is a partner in a law firm that handles many civil-rights issues and has offices in California, Georgia and Florida, said yesterday his office is reviewing two programs for Hawaiians that have "troubled us greatly."

While he declined to elaborate on what those programs may be, Ross said one of them does deal with education and is not a case that is currently before the state. He said people can expect some action between 90 and 180 days, depending on what the parties feel needs to be done.

Ross, who represented Rice in Ezra's courtroom yesterday, said the real issue in the Rice case is not just the 15th Amendment issue, but whether there is reverse discrimination in other programs, all of which he said will come under strict scrutiny following the Rice decision.

"So I see this as a milestone in the sense that it has brought realization to the people of this state that nothing is sacred anymore, that all programs are going to be looked at, going to be revisited," Ross said.

"And I can tell you, we ourselves have in mind one or two particular programs which I'm not at liberty to speak about at this time. But we certainly are going to be looking into that very carefully now, given that climate in this country and the decision by the Supreme Court," he said.

OHA Chairman Clayton Hee said there will always be people who question the entitlements and standing of Hawaiians. It is why Ezra was very clear that the remedy for Hawaiians is through Congress and the federal court system, he said.

"Hawaiians and Indians and Eskimos have always been under that kind of cloud or shadow and nothing changes," he added.

"We continue to move forward because that is what we're taught to do and that is what we'll do."

Attention on the Rice case now shifts to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which is considering OHA's and the state's requests to clarify whether there are vacancies on the OHA board and how they should be filled.

In a two-page order, Chief Justice Ronald Moon said yesterday the joint motion filed by the state and OHA on March 30 does not contain "all the facts upon which the controversy depends" and gave the state and OHA 30 days to file more information.

Moon wants the state and OHA to provide certified copies of the pleadings filed in the Rice vs. Cayetano case, including briefs and other pleadings filed with 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

E-mail to City Desk

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