Hawai‘i Supreme Court Adjusts Amount State Owes DHHL

February 12, 2018, 10:35 AM HST
* Updated February 12, 10:39 AM
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The Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled 4-1 on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, that the “sufficient sum” owed by the state to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) for administrative and operating expenses, under the State Constitution, is $1.3 to 1.6 million, adjusted for inflation, and not the over $28 million found by the lower court.

Beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust claimed that the Legislature had not provided DHHL with the constitutionally prescribed “sufficient sums” for its administrative and operating expenses.

This court ruled that the only way to judicially determine what is “sufficient” was to rely upon the $1.3 to 1.6 million, adjusted for inflation referenced in the 1978 Constitutional debates and remanded the case to the circuit court to establish the sum based on that calculation.

The state and the Legislature calculated that $1.3 to 1.6 million adjusted for inflation for the 2015-16 fiscal year would amount to $4.9 million and $5.8 million respectively. But the court noted the circuit court failed to make any findings as to the adjusted amount.

“I’m glad the court has ruled.” said Gov. David Y. Ige. “I stand by the supplemental budget request I submitted this year because the funding is needed to fulfill the department’s mission.”


Gov. Ige included $25.1 million for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands in the FY19 Supplemental Operating Budget request.


Download a copy of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s opinion and dissenting opinion in Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission.

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