Arakaki v. Lingle, No. CIV.02-00139 SOM/KSC.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
Writing for the CourtMollway
Citation305 F.Supp.2d 1161
PartiesEarl F. ARAKAKI, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Linda LINGLE in her official capacity as Governor of the State of Hawaii, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CIV.02-00139 SOM/KSC.
Decision Date14 January 2004
305 F.Supp.2d 1161
Earl F. ARAKAKI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Linda LINGLE in her official capacity as Governor of the State of Hawaii, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV.02-00139 SOM/KSC.
United States District Court, D. Hawai'i.
January 14, 2004.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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H. William Burgess, Honolulu, HI, for Plaintiffs.

Mark J. Bennett, Attorney General, argued, State of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, for Linda Lingle, State Officials, Hawaiian Homes Commissioners.

Sherry P. Broder, argued, Honolulu, HI, for Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFFS' REMAINING EQUAL PROTECTION CLAIM

MOLLWAY, District Judge.


I. INTRODUCTION.

This is the latest in a long line of motions filed in this case. The historical background set forth in earlier orders is incorporated herein. Plaintiffs' sole remaining claim is Plaintiffs' Equal Protection challenge as state taxpayers to programs being administered by Defendant Office of Hawaiian Affairs ("OHA").

OHA was established in 1978 by a state constitutional amendment. See Haw. Const. art. XII, §§ 5-6. The purposes of OHA include 1) bettering the condition of Hawaiians and native Hawaiians,1 2) serving as the principal state agency responsible for the performance, development, and coordination of programs and activities relating to Hawaiians and native Hawaiians; 3) assessing the policies and practices of other agencies affecting Hawaiians and native Hawaiians; 4) applying for, receiving, and disbursing grants and donations from all sources for Hawaiian and native Hawaiian programs and services; and 5) serving as a receptacle for reparations. Haw.Rev.Stat. § 10-3. It is undisputed that OHA administers programs for the benefit of all Hawaiians, not just native Hawaiians. It is also undisputed that OHA receives state tax appropriations. However, the extent of the taxes received by OHA and the exact nature of the programs benefitting Hawaiians have not been clearly established.

To the extent Plaintiffs are challenging OHA's use of state tax revenues to satisfy prerequisites for receiving matching federal

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funds, Plaintiffs lack standing to bring that challenge. Any such challenge necessarily challenges federal laws, and Plaintiffs' state taxpayer standing does not include standing to challenge any federal law. Accordingly, that claim is dismissed.

That leaves Plaintiffs' challenge to OHA's use of state tax revenues for programs not subject to federal matching fund provisions. OHA argues that this remaining claim should be dismissed because it presents a nonjusticiable political question. The political status of Hawaiians is currently being debated in Congress, and this court will not intrude into that political process. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' remaining Equal Protection claim is dismissed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

OHA's motion to dismiss is based on the political question doctrine. There is considerable debate about whether the political question doctrine is a jurisdictional or prudential limitation on this court. In Hopson v. Kreps, 622 F.2d 1375, 1378 (9th Cir.1980), the Ninth Circuit recognized this dispute:

The government urges that the political question doctrine has prudential as well as Article III dimensions, and contends that its application involves a weighing of relevant considerations on a case-by-case basis. It asks us to sustain the decision of the district court on the basis of a finding that the court sensitively applied the well-known criteria enunciated in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217, 82 S.Ct. 691, 710, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), to the particular facts before us. We need not resolve the longstanding debate as to the nature and proper scope of the political question doctrine.

Id. (footnote omitted).

Some cases have considered the political question doctrine as going to this court's jurisdiction.

In Flast v. Cohen, supra, 392 U.S. 83, 95, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1949, 20 L.Ed.2d 947, the Court noted that the concept of justiciability, which expresses the jurisdictional limitations imposed upon federal courts by the `case or controversy' requirement of Art. III, embodies both the standing and political question doctrines upon which petitioners in part rely. Each of these doctrines poses a distinct and separate limitation, Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 512, 89 S.Ct. 1944, 1959, 23 L.Ed.2d 491; Baker v. Carr, supra, 369 U.S. 186, 198, 82 S.Ct.691, 699, 7 L.Ed.2d 663, so that either the absence of standing or the presence of a political question suffices to prevent the power of the federal judiciary from being invoked by the complaining party.

Schlesinger v. Reservists Comm. to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 215, 94 S.Ct. 2925, 41 L.Ed.2d 706 (1974); accord Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 732, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 31 L.Ed.2d 636 (1972) ("Congress may not confer jurisdiction on Art. III federal courts to render advisory opinions, or to entertain `friendly' suits, or to resolve `political questions,' because suits of this character are inconsistent with the judicial function under Art. III.") (internal quotations omitted); Koohi v. United States, 976 F.2d 1328, 1337 (9th Cir.1992) (Kleinfeld, J., concurring) ("Both [the] political question doctrine and sovereign immunity go to jurisdiction."); Occidental of Umm al Qaywayn, Inc. v. A Certain Cargo of Petroleum Laden Aboard Tanker Dauntless Colocotronis, 577 F.2d 1196, 1203 (5th Cir.1978) ("Throughout the history of the federal judiciary, political questions have been held to be nonjusticiable and therefore not a `case or controversy' as defined by Article III.").

The Supreme Court has also noted, however, that the political question "doctrine

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has become a blend of constitutional requirements and policy considerations." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95-97, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit has stated:

Deeply rooted ambiguity in the nature and justification of the political question doctrine has prevented clear classification of the appropriate type of dismissal in political question cases. See Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure: Jurisdiction 2d § 3534.3, at 517-525 (2d ed.1984). We agree with Wright & Miller's conclusion that, in the end, clear classification is immaterial: "[T]here is probably more room for confusion than benefit in attempting to analogize [political question dismissal] to dismissal for failure to state a claim, or to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. Some cases will be appropriate for dismissal on the pleadings, others will require further development ...." Id. at 525; cf. Daniel O. Bernstine, The Political Question Doctrine: A Perspective on its Procedural Ramifications, 31 U. Kan. L.Rev. 115, 129-30 (1982) (concluding that dismissal for subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate if the claims fall within an established category of political questions or are frivolous, but that, otherwise, dismissal for failure to state a claim is appropriate).

Schroder v. Bush, 263 F.3d 1169, 1171, n. 1 (10th Cir.2001), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1083, 122 S.Ct. 817, 151 L.Ed.2d 700 (2002); accord Brown v. Hansen, 973 F.2d 1118, 1121 (3d Cir.1992) ("The political question doctrine does not deprive courts of jurisdiction over a case.").

This court need not decide whether the present motion to dismiss based on the political question doctrine raises a jurisdictional issue that should be resolved under Rule 12(b)(1) or merely prudential concerns that should be resolved under Rule 12(b)(6). On the present motion, the choice of rule does not affect the standard of review. Under either rule, this court, on the present motion, assumes the truth of Plaintiffs' factual allegations and determines whether, based on those allegations, the political question doctrine requires dismissal. See Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., Dist. No. 205, Maricopa County, 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n. 1 (9th Cir.2003) ("because this case was considered by the district court under a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, we assume the material facts alleged in the complaint are true"); Shaver v. Operating Engineers Local 428 Pension Trust Fund, 332 F.3d 1198, 1203 (9th Cir.2003) ("Since this is a 12(b)(6) motion, we assume that all the facts well pleaded in the complaint are true."); Burke v. AT & T Tech. Servs. Co., 55 F.Supp.2d 432, 436 (E.D.Va.1999) (when examining "a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P., on the basis that the complaint, on its face, fails to state a basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the court assumes all facts in the complaint are true, thus providing the plaintiff with the same procedural protections as a Rule 12(b)(6) determination") (internal quotation omitted).

III. POLITICAL QUESTION ANALYSIS.

A. Overview of the Political Question Doctrine.

OHA argues that Plaintiffs' remaining Equal Protection claim challenging the provision of benefits to Hawaiians by OHA involves a nonjusticiable political question.2 The political question doctrine

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bars this court's review of controversies that "revolve around policy choices and value determinations constitutionally committed for resolution to the halls of Congress or the confines of the Executive Branch." Japan Whaling Assoc. v. Amer. Cetacean Soc., 478 U.S. 221, 230, 106 S.Ct. 2860, 92 L.Ed.2d 166 (1986). On these matters, this court is "ill suited to make such decisions, as `courts are fundamentally underequipped to formulate national policies or develop standards for matters not legal in nature.'" Id. (quoting United States ex rel Joseph v. Cannon, 642 F.2d 1373, 1379 (1981)).

This court may dismiss an action on the ground that it involves a nonjusticiable political question when one of the following is "inextricable from the case":

[1] a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; [2] or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; [3]...

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2 practice notes
  • Arakaki v. Lingle, No. 04-15306.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2005
    ...and that Plaintiffs' remaining claims raised a nonjusticiable political question, and dismissed the entire lawsuit. Arakaki v. Lingle, 305 F.Supp.2d 1161 (D.Haw.2004) ("Arakaki VI"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1129 (D.Haw.2003) ("Arakaki V"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1114 (D.H......
  • Arakaki v. Lingle, No. 04-15306.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 9, 2007
    ...and that Plaintiffs' remaining claims raised a nonjusticiable political question, and dismissed the entire lawsuit. Arakaki v. Lingle, 305 F.Supp.2d 1161 (D.Haw.2004) ("Arakaki VI"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1129 (D.Haw.2003) ("Arakaki V"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1114 (D.H......
2 cases
  • Arakaki v. Lingle, No. 04-15306.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 31, 2005
    ...and that Plaintiffs' remaining claims raised a nonjusticiable political question, and dismissed the entire lawsuit. Arakaki v. Lingle, 305 F.Supp.2d 1161 (D.Haw.2004) ("Arakaki VI"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1129 (D.Haw.2003) ("Arakaki V"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1114 (D.H......
  • Arakaki v. Lingle, No. 04-15306.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 9, 2007
    ...and that Plaintiffs' remaining claims raised a nonjusticiable political question, and dismissed the entire lawsuit. Arakaki v. Lingle, 305 F.Supp.2d 1161 (D.Haw.2004) ("Arakaki VI"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1129 (D.Haw.2003) ("Arakaki V"); Arakaki v. Lingle, 299 F.Supp.2d 1114 (D.H......

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