The Role of a Well-Known Hawaiian Commissioner

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on February 24, 2014

The reality is this – real estate law isn’t just about laws, but also about the people who legislate them. Case in point: we have a man by the name of Duane Kanuha, former commissioner of the State Land Use Commission (LUC) for Hawaii, a government official who was just denied a second term with the exception of sitting on the board. This might all sound like news you’d hear on MSNBC without any care, but the truth of the matter lies in the effect our government officials have on how the law is applied to us. And for real estate law, that’s a big deal. We’re talking about our homes.vote

To be specific, over in Hawaii, there’s a rather sizable development project going on to reclassify some agricultural land for urban use. Here’s the problem – the Commission needs the vote of that one man, Kanuha, to have it pass, and there are dissenters among the ranks of the government wanting to see that project go down in flames. The question raised by the Sierra Club was whether or not Kanuha should be allowed to participate in the voting of that development project even though he’s no longer the commissioner.

Watch the deliberations arise as the Club filed an action, invalidating his decision to vote for the development project. Of course, the LUC denied the action, stating that while he’s not commissioner, he’s still an active member. The adventure continued as the circuit court got involved, reversing the LUC’s decision, much to the favor of the Sierra Club, wanting to see the development project close down.

And, yet, this wasn’t over by any stretch – the Intermediate Court of Appeals stepped in to overturn that decision, stating that Kanuha was in fact a valid “holdover” member of the Commission. The final battle commenced, though, in the great halls of the Supreme Court, as they were the final word – stating that there was no evidence of that fact. Kanuha was not allowed to vote, thereby preventing any move forward toward the completion of that development project. As you can plainly see – a major national change to one state revolved around the ability of one man to make a vote….

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