August 31, 2005

Hawaiians can sue over benefits to natives – court

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hawaiian taxpayers can sue the
state government to challenge programs that give preference to
natives of Hawaiian ancestry, a U.S. federal appeals court
ruled on Wednesday.

The lawsuit stems from plaintiffs who allege that different
programs of the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs unfairly
promotes the welfare of Hawaiian natives.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs
could sue over Hawaiian programs funded by state taxes but said
they would not sue the U.S. federal government.

Judge Jay Bybee, writing for a three-judge panel of the
court, said the case was being sent back to the district court
to determine if using state tax revenue on Office of Hawaiian
Affairs programs violates the Equal Protection Clause of the
14th Amendment.

The case is the latest in a series challenging special
programs aimed at boosting the welfare of native Hawaiians on
the islands, which became a U.S. state in 1959.

Earlier this month, the same judge wrote a 9th circuit
opinion that found a group of schools that have educated only
Native Hawaiians for more than a century cannot exclude
qualified non-Hawaiian students.