Office of Hawai`Ian Affairs v. Department of Educ.

Citation951 F.Supp. 1484
Decision Date23 October 1996
Docket NumberCiv. No. 96-00030 ACK.
PartiesOFFICE OF HAWAI`IAN AFFAIRS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Sherry P. Broder, Honolulu, for plaintiffs.

Steven S. Michaels, Office of Attorney General, State of Hawai`i, Honolulu, for defendants.


KAY, Chief Judge.


The Court IN PART GRANTS and IN PART DENIES Defendants' motion for judgement on the pleadings. First, the Court finds that the claims against the Department of Education ("DOE") and Board of Education ("BOE"), state agencies, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Under Kruse v. State of Hawaii, 68 F.3d 331, 334 (9th Cir.1995), the claims against these defendants which are based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are dismissed and all remaining claims against these defendants are remanded to state court. Similarly, as to the claims against the state officials in their official capacities, the constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are barred by the Eleventh Amendment because the relief which Plaintiffs seek is retrospective, not prospective. Therefore these officials are similarly state actors and thus not "persons" under § 1983, and accordingly the Court dismisses these claims. In contrast the claims under the Native American Languages Act ("NALA") against the state officials are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. However the Court enters judgement in favor of Defendants on these claims because NALA provides neither a direct private cause of action nor enforceable rights to sue under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Last, Plaintiffs' state law claims are also barred by the Eleventh Amendment and hence these claims are remanded to state court.


On November 27, 1995, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs ("OHA"), the Chairman of OHA, and the individual Trustees of OHA, (collectively "Plaintiffs"), filed suit in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit of the State of Hawaii against the State of Hawaii Department of Education ("DOE") and Board of Education ("BOE"), and, in their official capacities, the Superintendent of the DOE, the Chairman of the BOE, and the members of the BOE, (collectively "Defendants"). On January 16, 1996, Defendants removed this case to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.

In the complaint, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants' failure to provide sufficient Hawaiian language in Hawaii's public schools violate various state and federal laws. The crux of Plaintiffs' complaint is that the State of Hawaii should provide more Hawaiian language immersion programs in public schools. Although there are immersion programs currently in place, Plaintiffs contend that these programs do not meet the growing need by Hawaiian students for these programs. For these reasons Plaintiffs assert that Defendants violate state law under (1) Article X, § 4 of the Hawaii State Constitution, by failing "to provide a comprehensive Hawaiian education program" and failing to encourage "community expertise" to develop Hawaiian-language programs and teachers; and (2) Hawaii Revised Statute 1-1, by failing to protect the "customary rights" of Hawaiians to use their Hawaiian language. In addition Plaintiffs assert that Defendants violate federal law under (1) the Native American Languages Act of 1990 and (2) the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

To remedy these alleged violations Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, although the complaint does not specify what declaratory relief they seek. As to the injunctive relief sought, Plaintiffs request the Court to require Defendants to provide sufficient resources (teachers, classrooms, and learning materials) for Hawaiian immersion programs in public schools, to devise a plan to expand Hawaiian language programs and make them accessible, and to develop a pool of teachers for Hawaiian language immersion education.

After Defendants removed this case to federal court, Defendants filed the instant motion for partial judgement on the pleadings. In this motion Defendants request partial judgement on the federal claims and request the Court to remand the state law claims to state court.

The motion came before this Court for hearing on September 9, 1996. At the hearing the parties requested, and were granted, permission for additional briefing on the applicability of the Eleventh Amendment to this case. Thereafter on September 12, 1996 the parties submitted supplemental memoranda on this issue.


Judgement on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(c), is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that (1) no material issue of fact remains to be resolved; and (2) it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Doleman v. Meiji Mut. Life Ins. Co., 727 F.2d 1480, 1482 (9th Cir.1984).

In reviewing a defendant's motion under Rule 12(c), the district court views the facts as presented in the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, accepting as true all the allegations in their complaint and treating as false those allegations in the answer that contradict the plaintiffs' allegations. Hoeft v. Tucson Unified School Dist., 967 F.2d 1298, 1301 (9th Cir.1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner and Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir.1990).

Where the district court goes beyond the pleadings to resolve an issue, the motion properly is treated as one for summary judgement. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Hal Roach Studios, 896 F.2d at 1550 (9th Cir.1990).


Defendants assert that the Court should grant them partial judgement on the federal claims and should remand the state law issues to state court. Defendants first ask the Court to remand the state claims brought under the Hawaii State Constitution and Hawaii Revised Statutes. On the federal law claims, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have no claim under NALA because (1) the Act provides no private right of action and (2) the Act provides no enforceable rights which entitle Plaintiffs to sue under § 1983. Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs' claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal constitution likewise fail. According to Defendants these claims are based on past discrimination against native Hawaiians and thus (1) are barred by the statute of limitations and (2) do not constitute a present federal constitutional violation.

In opposition, Plaintiffs first assert that Defendants waived their Eleventh Amendment immunity because they removed this case to federal court. Second, Plaintiffs claim that their federal and state claims should be addressed together in the same court because their claim under the Native American Languages Act must be analyzed in relation to the obligations in the Hawaii State Constitution which pertains to native Hawaiians. Substantively, Plaintiffs argue that the Native American Languages Act creates an implied cause of action and that this statute should be construed in favor of the Native Hawaiians. Plaintiffs also argue that the statute of limitations does not bar their federal constitutional claims because they allege a present constitutional violation of the State's continuing duty to eradicate the effects of past invidious discrimination. Last, Plaintiffs assert that the Court should deny Defendants' motion because Defendants have allegedly refused to comply with discovery requests. The Court will not address the discovery issue because the issues presented in this motion for judgement on the pleadings can in fact be resolved on the pleadings alone.

I. Removal Jurisdiction

The Court first addresses, sua sponte, its removal jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

A. Legal Standard

28 U.S.C. § 1441 authorizes cases to be removed from state court to federal court in "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Moreover in regard to cases involving federal questions, § 1441(b) provides that "[a]ny civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded on a claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States shall be removable ..."

Removal of a case from state to federal court is a question of federal subject matter jurisdiction and therefore the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction falls on the party invoking removal. Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir.1988) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97, 42 S.Ct. 35, 37, 66 L.Ed. 144 (1921)). The Court may sua sponte address jurisdictional bars to removal, even if the plaintiff does not contest removal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) ("If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded."). See also Baskin-Robbins v. No Ka Oi Ice Cream, CV 93-00126 ACK, order filed December 3, 1993 (jurisdiction requirements under removal statute cannot be waived by failure to raise). Thus even if the plaintiff fails to file a motion for remand, the court can raise this jurisdictional issue sua sponte. The court must remand the case to state court if it finds that the case lacks federal subject matter jurisdiction.

B. Application

1. The Eleventh Amendment Jurisdictional Bar to Removal

In the case at bar Defendants removed this case to federal court on January 16, 1996. In their Notice of Removal Defendants asserted that the case could be removed to federal court because the Court had original jurisdiction over the action on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, given that the complaint alleged that Defendants violated the federal Native American Languages Act and the First and Fourteenth amendments to the federal constitution. Def...

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