A new lawsuit was filed in Hawaii Circuit Court on Tuesday that could further complicate an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case that pits environmental groups against Maui County, the Trump administration and a bevy of special interests.
At issue is who has the authority to settle a lawsuit — the Maui County Council or Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.
The dispute stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and others that argued that Maui County was violating the Clean Water Act because it was injecting treated wastewater into the ground that eventually poured into the ocean and damaged the reefs.
Maui County appealed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it has allied itself with a Trump administration that is trying to rollback long standing environmental regulations.
Among those supporting Maui County and the U.S. government’s position are the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others representing mining, oil and gas industries as well as Republican governors and senators.
The Maui County Council voted last month to settle the case and avert a showdown at the Supreme Court.
But Victorino’s administration pushed back and his top legal adviser, Corporation Counsel Moana Lutey, told the council that the mayor would not agree to the deal.
That refusal set the stage for the latest legal action, which was filed by Hawaii state Rep. Angus McKelvey, former Maui Council Council member Joanne Johnson Winer, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Archie Kalepa, community activist Ke’eaumoku Kapu and Maui Tomorrow.
Victorino and Lutey are the only named defendants.
The lawsuit asks a state court judge to affirm the council’s authority to settle the case and disqualify Lutey from representing Victorino or the council because both are considered her client and representing only one could be considered a conflict of interest.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the case on Nov. 6.
Read the lawsuit here:
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