Hawaii Supreme Court asked to clarify Superferry ruling

Chris Rizo Apr. 2, 2009, 12:57pm

Colleen Hanabusa (D)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Legal Newsline)- The Hawaii Supreme Court has been asked by state lawmakers to clarify its ruling that docked the Hawaii Superferry until an environmental impact is conducted.

The high court's decision forced the 836-passenger, 200-vehicle Hawaii Superferry to suspend its Honolulu-to-Kahului service, and could have far-reaching affects on the powers of state lawmakers, officials said.

In its ruling, the majority of justices sided with the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition, which argued that the law, known as Act 2, which allowed the ferry to operate while an environmental impact report was being prepared, was narrowly tailored to benefit one business, the ferry's operator.

State lawmakers say they want the justices to clarify their ruling because it could affect powers of the Legislature. Specifically, they say the ruling could restrict the Legislature from responding to future situations involving very specific interests.

"We think that given the impact this decision could have on the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government, we should have an opportunity to present our arguments and concerns," state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat, said in a statement. "Our interest is solely in the effect this decision could have on existing and future legislation."

The majority opinion in the Supperferry case was held by Associate Justice James Duffy Jr., Associate Justice Simeon Acoba, Jr. and First Circuit Court Judge Michael Town, who was filling the vacancy left by Associate Justice Steven Levinson, who retired.

Chief Justice Ronald T. Y. Moon and Associate Justice Paula Nakayama concurred in part and dissented in part.

The Pacific Whale Foundation called the decision as a win for Hawaii's environment.

"Hawaii Superferry is a business like any other business. Our objection is not to the business model of Hawaii Superferry, but to the fact that Act 2 was written specifically to allow a specific business -- the Hawaii Superferry -- to circumvent Hawaii's environmental laws," said foundation President Greg Kaufman. "Justice has prevailed here on behalf of Hawaii's environment."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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