Case Details


Attorney General Control Of Litigation

Filing State



Hawaii Supreme Court




Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. State of Hawai’I, 2005 Haw. LEXIS 475, at *47 (Hawaii 2005), vacated on other grounds, Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. State of Hawai’I 110 Haw. 338; 133 P.3d 767 (Haw. 2006)


Attorney General has exclusive authority to control and manage actions against the state.

Case Description

A Hawaii statute specified that funds from lands held in trust for native Hawaiians were to be paid to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). An airport was operated on the trust lands, and the state paid OHA from the operations of the airport. A federal statute requires that all revenues generated by an airport are to be used to improve the operations of the airport. The FAA stated that the use of the funds was improper and it would withhold grants to the Hawaii Department of Transportation to make up for the withheld funds. The Attorney General stated that the state would not challenge the FAA’s ruling. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed a statute (the Forgiveness Act) which forgave the funds already provided to OHA, but forbade the state from providing any additional funds to OHA from airport revenues. The Hawaii Supreme Court concluded that the Hawaii statute was inconsistent with the federal legislation, and was therefore invalid. OHA sued the State, alleging that the Forgiveness Act would not have become law if the State had properly challenged the FAA’s action and thus there would not have been a federal law in conflict with state law. As a result of Act 304’s invalidation, the plaintiffs could no longer recover airport-related revenues from the State, so the plaintiffs claimed that the State breached its trust duties by allowing Act 304 to become invalidated. The Hawaii Supreme Court noted that the Attorney General has sole control over all litigation involving the state. The court held “the attorney general chose to resolve the dispute, successfully obtaining forgiveness from repaying the federal government the $28.2 million already given to OHA. The attorney general’s decision to resolve the dispute between the State and the federal government fell squarely within her exclusive authority to control and manage “the settlement of imminent actions against the State.”