Hawaii Bill Would Require Mediation Prior to Sale of Kuleana Land

by Beth Graham
February 2017

Disputing Blog by Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes

Beth Graham

A member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives has reportedly introduced a bill that would require mediation for certain real estate transactions occurring in the state.  Due to the way in which Hawaii established private property rights in the mid-1800s, several hundred individuals may unknowingly have rights to small parcels of what are referred to as kuleana land that was given to Native Hawaiians across the state.  Determining ownership of the land can be a lengthy and difficult process.

The text of House Bill 860, “Action for Quiet Title; Kuleana Land,”

Provides that: (1) actions for quiet title of kuleana lands shall be subject to mandatory mediation; (2) court cases by the same plaintiff that seeks quiet title for separate kuleana lands within the same court circuit shall be consolidated; (3) defendant’s access for cultural and traditional practices shall not be alienated or extinguished; and (4) plaintiff shall not recover costs, expenses, or attorney’s fees from the defendant.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Kaniela Ing, the proposed law was designed to reduce both legal expenses and stress for Native Hawaiians who find themselves unexpectedly bargaining with often wealthy individuals seeking to purchase kuleana land.  Under Representative Ing’s proposal, kuleana land owners would be allowed to jointly mediate a sale rather than go through the court process.  If passed, the proposed mediation law would become effective on July 1st.

Representative Ing apparently drafted the proposal in response to several lawsuits that were filed by Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.  The lawsuits were filed in an effort to quiet title so that Zuckerberg could purchase 14 small parcels of kuleana land within his 700-acre Kauai estate.  Last week, Zuckerberg abandoned the lawsuits amid harsh criticism.

Biography


Beth Graham received a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2004 and a M.A. in Information Science and Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri in 2006. She also holds a B.S. in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is licensed to practice law in Texas and the District of Columbia.



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