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Amsterdam v. State

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 13, 2016

C. KAUI JOCHANAN AMSTERDAM, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAII, OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR, GOVERNOR DAVID IGE, BOARD CHAIRMAN OF TMT OBSERVATORY CORP., CHAIRMAN HENRY YANG, ASSOCIATED STATE AGENCIES, BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, STATE OF HAWAII, DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, STATE OF HAWAII, SUZANNE, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES AND DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT HILO AND MANOA, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NATIONS OF CHINA, INDIA, JAPAN, CANADA, AND THE UNITED STATES INVOLVED IN THE TMT PROJECT, ALL REPRESENTATIVES AS INDIVIDUALS AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY, Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT REGARDING THE THIRTY METER TELESCOPE ATOP THE SACRED VOLCANIC MOUNTAIN OF MAUNA KEA FILED ON AUGUST 24, 2015

Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

Before the Court are Defendant Henry Yang’s, in his capacity as Chair of the Board of the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”) Observatory Corp. (“Yang”), Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint Regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope Atop the Sacred Volcanic Mountain of Mauna Kea Filed on August 24, 2015 (“Yang’s Motion to Dismiss”), [1] [filed 9/23/15 (dkt. no. 23), ] and pro se Plaintiff C. Kaui Jochanan Amsterdam’s (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Reconsideration of Order for November 30, 2015 (“Motion for Reconsideration”) [filed 12/17/15 (dkt. no. 42)]. Plaintiff did not file a memorandum in opposition to Yang’s Motion to Dismiss. On December 23, 2015, Defendants the University of Hawai`i at Manoa and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo (“the University”) filed a memorandum in opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, and the same day Defendant Governor David Ige, in his official capacity (“the Governor”), filed a joinder in the University’s memorandum. [Dkt. nos. 45, 48.]

In an entering order filed on November 17, 2015, the Court vacated the hearing on Yang’s Motion to Dismiss, originally set for December 21, 2015 at 9:45 a.m. [Dkt. no. 37.] In an entering order filed on December 8, 2015 (“12/8/15 EO”), [dkt. no. 41, ] the Court noted that the Hawai`i Supreme Court had recently vacated the permit that allowed for the TMT’s construction. See Mauna Kea Ainana Hou v. Bd. of Land & Nat. Res., No. SCAP-14-0000873, 2015 WL 7760324 (Hawai`i Dec. 2, 2015). The Court directed Plaintiff, Yang, the Governor, and Defendant Suzanne Case, in her official capacity as Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (“Chairperson Case”), to file memoranda addressing whether or not, given the Hawai`i Supreme Court’s decision in Mauna Kea, the instant case is now moot. The Governor and Chairperson Case filed their joint memorandum on December 21, 2015 (“Governor’s Memorandum”), Plaintiff filed his memorandum on December 22, 2015 (“Plaintiff’s Memorandum”), and Yang filed his memorandum on December 23, 2015 (“Yang’s Memorandum”). [Dkt. nos. 43, 46, 44.]

The Court finds these matters suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule 7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the motions, memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, the Court FINDS that this case is MOOT, and CONCLUDES that it must be DISMISSED. Yang’s Motion to Dismiss and the Motion for Reconsideration are DENIED AS MOOT.

BACKGROUND

On August 24, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Complaint Regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope Atop the Sacred Volcanic Mountain of Mauna Kea (“Complaint”). [Dkt. no. 1.] On November 30, 2015, this Court filed an Order: (1) Granting Defendant Governor David Ige’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint Filed August 24, 2015; (2) Granting Defendant Suzanne Case in her Official Capacity as Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources Joinder in Defendant Governor David Ige’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint Filed August 24, 2015; and (3) Granting Defendants University of Hawaii at Hilo and University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s “Complaint Regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope Atop the Sacred Volcanic Mountain of Mauna Kea, ” Filed on August 24, 2015 (“11/30/15 Order”). [Dkt. no. 39.] The 11/30/15 Order sets forth the background in this case, and the Court will only repeat the information that is relevant to the instant Order. In the 11/30/15 Order, the Court found that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring suit. Additionally, the Court ruled that: Plaintiff’s claim under article XII, section 7 of the Hawai`i State Constitution; “Plaintiff’s claims against the State of Hawai`i, associated state agencies, the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources” (“the state and state agencies”); and Plaintiff’s claims against the University were all barred by the Eleventh Amendment. [11/30/15 Order at 15.]

Plaintiff’s Hawai`i State Constitution claim, claims against the state and state agencies, and claims against the University were dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff’s claims against the Governor and Chairperson Case were dismissed without prejudice. The Court noted that “[i]t is arguably possible that Plaintiff could amend his Complaint to state a claim against the Governor and Chairperson Case over which this Court has jurisdiction.” [Id. at 16.] Because Yang’s Motion to Dismiss was still pending when the Court issued the 11/30/15 Order, the Court refrained from giving Plaintiff a deadline to file an amended complaint.

In addition to Yang, the remaining defendants named in the Complaint are representatives of the nations of China, India, Japan, Canada, and the United States (“Country Representatives”).

STANDARD

The Ninth Circuit has stated:

It is an inexorable command of the United States Constitution that the federal courts confine themselves to deciding actual cases and controversies. See U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. For a case to fall within the parameters of our limited judicial power, “it is not enough that there may have been a live case or controversy when the case was decided by the court whose judgment we are reviewing.” Burke v. Barnes, 479 U.S. 361, 363, 107 S.Ct. 734, 93 L.Ed.2d 732 (1987). Rather, Article III requires that a live controversy persist throughout all stages of the litigation. See Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459 n.10, 94 S.Ct. 1209, 39 L.Ed.2d 505 (1974) (“an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed”). Where this condition is not met, the case has become moot, and its resolution is no longer within our constitutional purview. See Foster v. Carson, 347 F.3d 742 (9th Cir. 2003) (“We do not have the constitutional authority to decide moot cases.”). Because “[m]ootness is a jurisdictional issue, id. at 745, we are obliged to raise it sua sponte. See Demery v. Arpaio, 378 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 2004).

Gator.com Corp. v. L.L. Bean, Inc., 398 F.3d 1125, 1128-29 (9th Cir. 2005) (alterations in Gator.com).

“There are, however, four major exceptions to the mootness doctrine, for (1) collateral legal consequences; (2) wrongs capable of repetition yet evading review; (3) voluntary cessation; and (4) class actions where the named party ceases to represent the ...


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