HAWAII v. OFFICE OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS
HAWAII et al. v. OFFICE OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS et al.
certiorari to the supreme court of hawaii
After the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Congress annexed the Territory of Hawaii pursuant to the Newlands Resolution, under which Hawaii ceded to the United States the absolute fee and ownership of all public, government, and crown lands. In 1959, the Admission Act made Hawaii a State, granting it all the public lands … held by the United States, §5(b), and requiring these lands, together with the proceeds from [their] sale … , [to] be held by [the] State as a public trust, §5(f). Hawaii state law also authorizes the State to use or sell the ceded lands, provided the proceeds are held in trust for Hawaiian citizens. In 1993, Congress joint Apology Resolution apologize[d] for this countrys role in overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy, §1, and declared that nothing in the resolution was intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States, §3.
The Leialii parcel, a Maui tract of former crown land, was ceded to the United States at annexation and has been held by the State since 1959 as part of the Admission Act §5(f) trust. Hawaiis affordable housing agency (HFDC) received approval to remove the parcel from the trust and redevelop it upon compensating respondent Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), which manages funds from the use or sale of ceded lands for the benefit of native Hawaiians. After HFDC refused OHAs demand that the payment include a disclaimer preserving any native Hawaiian claims to lands transferred from the trust for redevelopment, respondents sued to enjoin the sale or transfer of the Leialii parcel and any other of the ceded lands until final determination of native Hawaiians claims. The state trial court entered judgment against respondents, but the Hawaiian Supreme Court vacated that ruling. Relying on the Apology Resolution, the court granted the injunction that respondents requested, rejecting petitioners argument that the Admission Act and state law give the State explicit power to sell ceded lands.
1. This Court has jurisdiction. Respondents argue to no avail that the case does not raise a federal question because the State Supreme Court merely held that the sale of ceded lands would constitute a breach of the States fiduciary duty to Native Hawaiians under state law. The Court has jurisdiction whenever a state court decision fairly appears to rest primarily on federal law, or to be interwoven with the federal law. Michigan v. Long, 463 U. S. 1032. Far from providing a plain statement that its decision rested on state law, the state court plainly held that the decision was dictated by federal law, particularly the Apology Resolution. Pp. 67.
2. The Apology Resolution did not strip Hawaii of its sovereign authority to alienate the lands the United States held in absolute fee and granted to the State upon its admission to the Union. Pp. 712.
(a) Neither of the resolutions substantive provisions justifies the judgment below. The first such provisions six verbsi.e., Congress acknowledge[d] the historical significance of the monarchys overthrow, recognize[d] and commend[ed] efforts of reconciliation with native Hawaiians, apologize[d] to [them] for the overthrow, expresse[d] [the] commitment to acknowledge [the overthrows] ramifications, and urge[d] the President … to also acknowledge [those] ramifications, §1are all conciliatory or precatory. This is not the kind of language Congress uses to create substantive rights, especially rights enforceable against the cosovereign States. See, e.g., Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U. S. 1. The resolutions second substantive provision, the §3 disclaimer, by its terms speaks only to those who may or may not have claims against the United States. The State Supreme Court, however, read §3 as a congressional recognitionand preservationof claims against Hawaii. There is no justification for turning an express disclaimer of claims against one sovereign into an affirmative recognition of claims against another. Pp. 810.
(b) The State Supreme Courts conclusion that the 37 whereas clauses prefacing the Apology Resolution clearly recognize native Hawaiians unrelinquished claims over the ceded lands is wrong for at least three reasons. First, such whereas clauses cannot bear the weight that the lower court placed on them. See, e.g., District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, ___, n. 3. Second, even if the clauses had some legal effect, they did not restructure Hawaiis rights and obligations, as the lower court found. [R]epeals by implication are not favored and will not be presumed unless the intention of the legislature to repeal [is] clear and manifest. National Assn. of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 551 U. S. 644, ___. The Apology Resolution reveals no such intention, much less a clear and manifest one. Third, because the resolution would raise grave constitutional concerns if it purported to cloud Hawaiis title to its sovereign lands more than three decades after the States admission to the Union, see, e.g., Idaho v. United States, 533 U. S. 262, n. 9, the Court refuses to read the nonsubstantive whereas clauses to create such a cloud retroactively, see, e.g., Clark v. Martinez, 543 U. S. 371. Pp. 1012.
117 Haw. 174, 177 P. 3d 884, reversed and remanded.
Alito, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.