Thursday, February 05, 2009

Five Cases to Watch at the Supreme Court

Most Americans hear and read commentary about the Supreme Court's constitutionald docket, cases involving the interpretation of individual rights. This not all that surprising, but many people don't realize that a very large chunk of the Supreme Court's docket consistents of business cases.'s Daniel Fisher has a review of five business cases that are somewhat interesting. The Hawaiian land case is interesting and could have implications for those people who are interested in changning the Court's interpretation from the 2005 Kelo decsion. Fisher description of that case:
Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs
That may be the situation with another history-laden case that pits Hawaii against groups representing native Hawaiians over the status of 1.2 million acres of land, 20% of the island state. In a 2008 ruling, the Hawaii Supreme Court blocked the sale of some of that land to a private developer, saying the state couldn't transfer any property until the Hawaii legislature resolved the question of whether native Hawaiians actually owned it.

The fight stems from the 1898 annexation of Hawaii, which Congress authorized and President McKinley signed after an earlier coup dethroned Queen Lili'Uokalani. Hawaii became a state in 1959, but the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a 1993 "Apology Resolution," in which Congress called the overthrow of the monarchy "illegal," reopened the question of who owns the land.

This is a tough one to call. The Supreme Court in 1984 upheld Hawaii's aggressive land-reform law, which forced large landowners to sell to homeowners at court-mandated prices to end, in the words of then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the state's "feudal land tenure system." That contributed to the Roberts court's contentious Kelo decision in 2005, upholding a Connecticut city's condemnation of private property for a commercial project.
Could a ruling regarding the ownership of 20% of Hawaii's land space end up in a reversal of Kelo? It may be possible.

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