Editor’s Note: This commentary by law professor David Callies is in response to a Jan. 28 Community Voice by environmental attorneys Robert Harris and Isaac Moriwake, “Hawaii Court Upholds Public Responsibility In Environmental Cases.”

Sigh! There they go again, vilifying and attacking the messenger rather than sticking to the issues. In response:

I have never ever suggested that the Hawaii Supreme Court is corrupt, as Harris and Moriwake clearly imply. Previously biased, yes. Consistently ruling in favor of the Sierra Club, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and Earth Justice and similar NGO interest groups and against property owners and government nearly 90 percent of the time speaks for itself.

I make no apologies for attempting to defend the rights of all landowners to use their property. The U.S. Supreme Court has equated protection of such rights with civil rights like freedom of press, expression, and security against unreasonable search and seizure. I agree. The use of land is not a privilege but a right subject to governmental exercise of its police power for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. That does not mean any landowner can develop at any level or density anywhere, and for Harris and Moriwake to suggest otherwise is a gross mischaracterization of my position, as I expect they know.

I gather all the jabber about my “clients” is a sorry attempt to further attack my credibility by showing bias.

As I have written elsewhere, during the time period I have allegedly engaged in such biased conduct, I also served as expert witness or counsel to the NAACP, the state office of planning, the state land use commission, and a neighbor island county. The consistent factor in all these is support of civil and property rights for whomever espouses similar convictions, be they government, private landowner or NGO.

Those who employ Harris and Moriwake are NGO’s with a demonstrably different agenda and perspective, but make no mistake, they are nongovernmental interest groups nevertheless. The people are represented by their legislators, mayors and governors as elected officials, not by either me or the likes of Harris and Moriwake.

About the author: David L. Callies is Benjamin A. Kudo professor of law at the Law School where he teaches land use, state and local government and real property.


Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. We do not solicit particular items and we rarely turn down submissions. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.