East Hawaii News

New Lawsuit Filed Against Na’i Aupuni

December 22, 2015, 5:36 PM HST
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Lawsuit filed by plaintiffs against Na'i Aupuni.

Lawsuit filed by plaintiffs against Na’i Aupuni.

A group that successfully stopped an election that would have voted delegates into a constitutional convention, or ‘aha, has filed another lawsuit against that election’s organizer, arguing that it is not following the temporary injunction laid down by the United States Supreme Court on Dec. 2.

Four native Hawaiians and two non-native Hawaiians are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Na’i Aupuni, an independent organization that organized an election to send delegates from across the state to next February’s ‘aha. Native Hawaiian individuals who registered with the organization were allowed to vote for candidates during the month of November, with results scheduled to be announced shortly after.

Last month’s election hit a snag when Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a temporary stay on Nov. 27, stopping ballots from being counted until a later ruling from the court. Five days later, the entire Supreme Court granted an injunction by the plaintiffs to halt the election process until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could issue a ruling.

Na’i Aupuni’s next move was to terminate its election plans, but allow all candidates to register for the ‘aha. Those who intended to run in the election have a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to submit their intentions to participate. That move prompted the new lawsuit, with the election’s opponents arguing that it violates the Supreme Court’s temporary injunction.

“It’s outrageous that Na’i Aupuni and state agencies such as OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission have ignored and defied the Supreme Court of the United States,” said plaintiff Dr. Keli’i Akina, Ph.D, president of the Grassroot Institute. “All citizens of Hawai’i, including native Hawaiians, should be apalled at the contempt our own state government is showing to the U.S. Constitution. The majority of Native Hawaiians, in particular, have made it clear that they do no support and are not represented by those trying to push through a state-sponsored, racially discriminatory government-creation process.”

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Judicial Watch’s lead attorney Robert Popper is working with Grassroot Institute on the case. He called Na’i Aupuni’s latest move “a trick.”

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“This whole election was based on a trick, using a non-profit that was really a state agent to accomplish what the State could not. It was all an attempt to get around prior Supreme Court precedent,” Popper argued. “This latest move of certifying all the candidates as winners is simply another trick. This time, it’s an attempt to get around the Supreme Court’s Dec. 2 injunction.”

Na’i Aupuni issued a response to the lawsuit late Tuesday afternoon, vowing to make sure that the path to February’s ‘aha will continue.

“The Supreme Court’s December 2 order enjoined Na’i Aupuni from counting the ballots cast in, and certifying the winners of, the election until the Ninth Circuit could rule on Hawai’i Federal Judge [J. Michael] Seabright’s denial of the Akina plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin the start of the election. Thereafter, on December 15, Na’i Aupuni terminated the election, and offered all candidates  – none of whom were elected by voters – an opportunity to gather to discuss, among other matters, a path to self governance,” said Na’i Aupuni in the statement.

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“Nothing in the Supreme Court order prohibits Na’i Aupuni from making this offer and organizing the gathering. Civil contempt is only appropriate where the court order clearly and unambiguously prohibits the proposed action. Akina plaintiffs’ motion is without merit and we will oppose the motion to ensure that the February gathering will go forward.”

Plaintiffs want the Supreme Court to “hold respondents in contempt and take all attempts necessary to enforce the temporary injunction.”

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