The plaintiffs in Akina v. Hawaii on Tuesday filed a motion for civil contempt at the U.S. Supreme Court, naming Nai Aupuni, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission and other defendants.

The goal of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is to effectively halt Nai Aupuni’s plans for a convention in February that could determine a path to self governance for Native Hawaiians, pending the review of a federal appeals court.

Nai Aupuni’s plans were announced earlier this month after the group supported by funding through OHA ended the vote counting of a slate of delegates for the convention, known as an aha.

Grassroot Institute, which calls itself “an independent, free-market think tank,” argues in its motion that canceling the election is in violation of the “letter and spirit” of the high court’s temporary injunction on Dec. 2 that ordered a stoppage of the counting of ballots even as the voting was ongoing.

Thousands participated in the Aloha Aina Unity March. 9 aug 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Thousands participated in an Aloha Aina Unity March in Waikiki in August. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“It’s outrageous that Nai Aupuni and state agencies such as OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission have ignored and defied the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Grassroot head Kelii Akina, the plaintiff for whom the lawsuit is named. “All citizens of Hawaii, including native Hawaiians, should be appalled at the contempt our own state government is showing to the U.S. Constitution.”

Grassroot Institute is aided in its legal challenge by the conservative Judicial Watch.

Akina added, “The majority of Native Hawaiians, in particular, have made it clear that they do not support and are not represented by those trying to push through a state-sponsored, racially discriminatory government-creation process.”

Nai Aupuni, which calls itself an independent nonprofit, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“The Supreme Court’s December 2 order enjoined Nai Aupuni from counting the ballots cast in, and certifying the winners of, the election until the Ninth Circuit could rule on Hawaii Federal Judge Seabright’s denial of the Akina plaintiffs’ motion to enjoin the start of the election. Thereafter, on December 15, Nai Aupuni terminated the election, and offered all candidates — none of whom were elected by voters — an opportunity to gather to discuss, among other matters, a path to self-governance.

“Nothing in the Supreme Court order prohibits Nai Aupuni from making this offer and organizing the gathering. Civil contempt is only appropriate where the court order clearly and unambiguously prohibits the proposed action. Akina plaintiffs’ motion is without merit and we will oppose the motion to ensure that the February gathering will go forward.”

Nai Aupuni has argued that it held a private election with the support of funds that came from a foundation that received money from OHA, a quasi-state agency. A U.S. District Court judge, Seabright, ruled in its favor, but the case is on appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit.

Meanwhile, Nai Aupuni announced Monday that about 100 people have committed to participate in the February convention. The deadline to register is midnight Tuesday, and delegates will be announced Wednesday — unless there is further court action.

Regarding the convention, Nai Aupuni said via press release, “The first week of the conference will be dedicated to providing information to the participants regarding constitution building; federal Indian law; international law regarding de-occupation, decolonization, the rights of indigenous people; U.S. Constitution issues that relate to self-governance; the ceded lands; and Kingdom Law.”

And this: “Peter Adler and Linda Colburn of The Mediation Center of the Pacific will serve as facilitators to lead the first week’s informational component and assist in organizing the group. Thereafter, the course and results of the ‘Aha will be with the participants and without interference by Na‘i Aupuni or any government entity.”

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