Ceded lands and judicial politics

I got so carried away with baseball yesterday that I neglected to note Ken Kobayashi’s excellent piece on Gov. Linda Lingle’s upcoming state Supreme Court appointment.

Perhaps most interesting was that Attorney General Mark Bennett, once considered the governor’s most likely choice to replace retiring Chief Justice Ronald Moon, isn’t applying.

Bennett says he wants to return to private practice and it has nothing to do with speculation that he couldn’t survive the politics of the state Senate confirmation process, but suspicions remain.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who gave a laudatory speech on Bennett’s behalf when was appointed AG, said there’s no question he’s qualified for the high court from a standpoint of legal credentials, but he could still face a bumpy confirmation ride because of hard feelings over decisions he’s made in eight years on the job.

One sore point: He angered native Hawaiians when he successfully appealed a state Supreme Court ruling barring the sale of ceded lands — former crown lands passed to the state when Hawai’i joined the union.

There may be reasons why Bennett should be disqualified from a judicial appointment, but ceded lands isn’t one of them.

He did his job in enforcing the law as he saw it, and he was right on the law. The usually divided U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Bennett that the state court used specious legal reasoning to effectively overturn provisions of the 1959 Admissions Act.

The AG shouldn’t be penalized for refusing to turn his head from a bad legal ruling for political convenience, and the Senate shouldn’t give single-issue political interests veto power over judicial appointments.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Candidates need to focus on regaining conscience.”


Former Advertiser City Hall reporter Gordon Pang has joined the blogosphere with PangintheHale, which will offer regular insights on local municipal news.

His first piece handicaps the six applicants still alive in today’s anticipated City Council vote on a replacement for Charles Djou. Check it out.

Explore posts in the same categories: Volcanic Ash

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9 Comments on “Ceded lands and judicial politics”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    During a legislative hearing a couple of months ago, I asked Mark what’d be doing coming the second Tuesday in December. He said sailing out of Madrid (I think) on a three week cruise with his wife before starting up a new law practice in early January. Thus the article stating just that was no surprise.

    I like Mark – he’s funny and accessible.

    Do you have Gordon’s e-mail? i have a story for him – in fact, it deals with an inquiry I filed with the AG’s office about the legality of the upcoming City Council elections. If you do, could you please e-mail it to me. Mahalo.

  2. ‘Senate shouldn’t give single issue political interests veto power over judicial appointments.’- and yet legislators and people in general, when participating in governing, do that very thing with increasingly fragmenting results for our society. It’s trash chute to history and it’s a damn shame.

  3. WooWoo Says:

    Dave, I think that you should have offered Gordon a spot within your site so that he can call it “PangInTheAsh.”

  4. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha David ~
    Interesting perspective in your SA column today. You wrote, “Hawaii’s biggest problem in dealing with the Great Recession wasn’t a loss of tourism, jobs or tax revenue, but an abandonment of the social contract that sustains our island culture.”

    I’m not sure there is consensus in Hawai’i about the terms of this social contract. Clearly the Kanaka Maoli would have their version. The angriest voices seem to come from conservatives imported from the mainland. Their continual whining about HIGH taxes and alleged WASTEFUL government annoys the hell out of me.

    So what is our social contract with each other in a nation of 300 million who claim to believe more strongly in individualism than community – yet all of whom, conservative, independent and liberal, feed deeply at the public trough? Do a handful of Pacific islands and 1.3 million residents behave differently?

    The concept of ohana only goes so far – and seems to end with pocketbook issues. When we enter the political realm, does anyone really consider us family?

    You claim the BOE “booted schoolchildren to the curb and public agencies slashed services for the poor, sick and elderly when they needed help the most.”

    This is an unfair statement. The BOE started with a $2.4B budget, which was slashed by political leaders some 25%, to around $1.8B. The public asked the impossible yet offered little financial or material support. We refuse to demand our keiki work harder or require greater participation from parents. We simply cut education dollars while increasing expectations. This is not rational and why I’ve frequently used the term insanity to describe our action. Is not society at large in breach of our social contract to public education?

    On the other hand early research from other states suggests cutting days may not equate to reduced academic proficiency. If these preliminary reports are accurate, we may discover a Hawthorne affect here – increased attention to our schools and keiki performance may have led to increased study focus and parental involvement.

    Let’s keep in mind both you and I proffered solutions to Furlough Fridays. Yet Lingle refused to consider tapping reserve funds at the time. This meant taxes need be raised, public servants fired (or suffer reduced wages) or some combination of these options.

    Public agencies screamed when being told to cut services. Yet taxpayers said, “Cut your salaries or abandon the needy – you choose.” What kind of devilish equation is this? Government workers have mortgages and bills like everyone else. Society has selfishly shifted financial responsibility for our least fortunate to the wallets of those employed to provide the services. This was not the social contract our public workers signed when they accepted their positions.

    And, as you’re aware, my calls for more help from our most rich were not warmly received. Those most able to assist were the first to gather their nuts and head for the doors – and, bottom line, it was the games of the most rich that put us in this situation. Had this been a natural disaster, say a hurricane, I believe there would have been more shared sacrifice – as all would be in this together.

    When leaders from the most rich class, and politicians who accepted large pay raises, set the tone of selfishness, why should the peasants be expected to act differently? This “do as I say, not as I do” attitude does not stimulate shared sacrifice. Politicians who have the courage to make this request likely felt they would be out of a job in November if they pushed aggressively.

    Each of us have failed during this crisis. Yet who can blame struggling workers and families when those most capable continue only to demand more for themselves?

    Abercrombie is correct that we must re-establishment a public conscience. I am reminded of a different time, a more idealistic time, when a young John Kennedy said, “Ask not what this country can do for you. Ask what you can do for this country.”

    Clearly we are the Grasshopper Generation … we want to play but not do the needed work. I guess we should stop pointing fingers and look in the mirror.


  5. David Shapiro Says:

    Yo, Gordon. I love WooWoo’s idea. I’ll give you equal billing and 3/4 of the revenue. What the hell, you can have it all.

    Scott, you make my point by answering concerns about intransigence and finger-pointing with more intransigence and finger-pointing.

  6. Gordon Y.K. Pang Says:

    Aloha Dave,

    OK, we’ll talk. 😉

    Thanks for the plug! Hope I can be as prodigious as you!

    Woowoo…thanks for the kind words.

    Capitol -ist/WassupDoc…you can reach me at gordon.y.k.pang@gmail.com.

  7. WooWoo Says:


    I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog… (which means I’m going to tell you how to run your blog) but you should consider getting guys like Gordon to post on one blogsite with you. Many of the blogs that I read on a regular basis have 3-5 main contributors. I assume that it makes life easier for all contributors because they don’t feel like they MUST post something every day, and then overall there is more content and people check on a regular basis. Your unifying theme could just be a blog by a few guys with ridiculous amounts of experience reporting on the local news and politics scene.

    From my personal selfish standpoint, it makes for one-stop shopping.

    Anyway, just a suggestion for you to keep in mind (or discard from mind immediately if you like).

  8. shaftalley Says:

    the AG office is a very powerful agency.and highly political.a lot of attorney generals have used the office as a stepping stone to more lucrative and powerful political jobs.the confirmation process for judicial appointment is pure politics.and the ruling party usually has the upper hand for getting “their nominees” appointed.but can’t just blame politicians for their actions/non actions.the voters put them there.on the matter of attorney general bennet’s succesful appealing a state high court ruling barring the sale of ceded lands,he may have been under political pressure.all three branches of the federal gov’t. have historically been a disaster for “native americans” black-americans and native hawaiians.the gov’t. handling of these groups is a failure.

  9. Wayne Says:

    I would agree with Scott Goold on the social contract discussion. Being Sansei, and both my parents raised on plantations, the social contract was very different than many friends and neighbors. We were raised to be self-disciplined, self-reliant and gracious. Charity was directed for “family.” Teachers were expected to teach and students were expected to learn. I grew up not understanding that there are people who actually were inept. So taxes were necessary for my parent’s children to get their education. It was not considered a social program to assist the kids whose parents somehow couldn’t/wouldn’t keep a job and take care of their own family.
    So when I look in the mirror, I see me! Someone who pays his taxes with the anticipation that those who spend my taxes will fund my greatest priority, my childrens education. To this point in their history, they are assets to their school. They do not play football, they are not big utilizers of services and they get pretty good grades.
    They will go to college, if their dad has any say in the matter. They will not be in Hawaii after college unless they go into law or real estate or nursing. There will be limited tech jobs unless they work for the government and teaching? forget about it…
    By the way, I’ll go and bang my favorite drum… has anyone looked to see what the cost savings would be to eliminate football from the public schools? I guess that is like the idea of taxing the rich… so few are in favor of it because they still have dreams of being one of them: a football star and/or rich.

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