United States District Court, D. Hawaii
SPIRIT OF ALOHA TEMPLE AND FREDRICK R. HONIG, Plaintiffs,
COUNTY OF MAUI, Defendant, and STATE OF HAWAII, Intervenor-Defendant
GRANTING DEFENDANT STATE OF HAWAII'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT WITH RESPECT TO COUNT V AND DEFENDANT COUNTY OF
MAUI'S JOINDER THEREIN, RULING THAT ONLY “AS
APPLIED” CHALLENGES ARE ASSERTED WITH RESPECT TO
REMAINING CLAIMS, AND DENYING COUNTER MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT WITH RESPECT TO COUNT V
OKI MOLLWAY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Fredrick R. Honig bought land on Maui zoned for agricultural
use and leased that land to Plaintiff Spirit of Aloha Temple,
which, among other things, conducted a commercial wedding
operation on the agricultural land until the County of Maui
told it to stop. Thereafter, Plaintiffs applied for a Special
Use Permit to build a church and hold religious events,
including weddings, on the agriculture land, uses not allowed
without a Special Use Permit. After the requested Special Use
Permit was denied, Plaintiffs filed this action, asserting
federal and state claims against the Maui Planning Commission
and the County of Maui.
January 27, 2016, this court dismissed the Planning
Commission as a party and declined to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Count X, which asked this court to resolve
an appeal from the Planning Commission's denial of the
Special Use Permit. This court stayed the remaining claims as
a matter of Pullman abstention, allowing Plaintiffs
to appeal the denial of the Special Use Permit through the
state court, Plaintiffs reserved their right to have their
federal claims decided by this court, informing the state
trial court that the only claim before the state court
involved the appeal of the Planning Commission's
decision. On November 17, 2016, the state trial court
affirmed the Planning Commission's decision. No. further
appeal was filed. This court subsequently dissolved the stay
so that the remaining claims could be addressed.
State of Hawaii, which intervened in this action, now moves
for summary judgment, arguing that res judicata bars the
prior restraint claim asserted in Count V and that, even if
res judicata does not apply, there was no impermissible prior
restraint as a matter of law. Plaintiffs filed a counter
motion for summary judgment with respect to the prior
restraint claim. This court rules that res judicata does not
bar the prior restraint claim and turns to the merits of that
claim, granting the State of Hawaii's motion and the
County of Maui's Joinder therein with respect to the
merits of that claim.
state also seeks partial summary judgment with respect to
Counts I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII, and IX (no Count III is
asserted in the Complaint), arguing that Plaintiffs are only
asserting as applied challenges in those counts, not facial
challenges. Plaintiffs do not oppose this part of the motion,
and this court therefore rules that only as applied
challenges are pled in those counts. The court leaves the
merits of those challenges for later proceedings.
factual background for this case was set forth in this
court's Order Denying Motions for Summary Judgment of
July 20, 2018. See 322 F.Supp.3d 1051. That
background is incorporated by reference and is summarized and
September 1994, Frederick Honig purchased agricultural
property on Haumana Road in Haiku, Hawaii.
September 2007, Spirit of Aloha Temple, Inc., was
incorporated; Honig was listed as its Senior Minister. Honig
and Spirit of Aloha Temple practice “Integral
Yoga.” For purposes of these motions, no party contests
the validity of Honig's religion or the sincerity of his
October 12, 2007, Spirit of Aloha Temple, through Honig,
applied for a Special Use Permit for the property to be used
for a “Church, church operated bed and breakfast
establishment, weddings, special events, day seminars, and
helicopter landing pad.” ECF No. 183-3, PageID # 2592.
On June 30, 2008, Spirit of Aloha Temple amended the Special
Use Permit application to define Spirit of Aloha Temple's
activities as including “a weekly service, classes,
special events, day programs and weddings.” ECF No.
183-3, PageID # 2593.
March 30, 2010, the Planning Commission for the County of
Maui held a hearing on the Special Use Permit application.
See Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and
Decision and Order of Maui Planning Commission. See
ECF No. 183-3, PageID # 2583. The Maui Planning Commission
voted 5 to 3 to deny the application. Id., PageID #s
September 2012, the County of Maui issued Honig three notices
of violation for building a structure without a proper
permit, conducting transient vacation rentals on property
where such rentals were not allowed, and conducting
commercial weddings on property where such weddings were not
allowed. The County of Maui ordered Honig to cease and desist
the conduct. See ECF No. 183-8, PageID #s 2877-78.
The County of Maui and Honig ultimately settled these
matters. See id., PageID #s 2877-83.
November 21, 2012, Spirit of Aloha Temple, through Honig,
submitted a second Special Use Permit application to use the
property for church activities. ECF No. 183-6, PageID #2803.
Spirit of Aloha Temple sought to use the property for a
classroom on weekdays; a weekly church service; and
educational, inspirational, and spiritual events, including
“Hawaiian Cultural Events, such as Hula performances,
Seminars on Hawaiian Plant Based Nutrition, Cultural Music
Performances, and Spiritual commitment ceremonies including
weddings.” Id., PageID # 2811.
Maui Planning Commission denied the 2012 Special Use Permit
The Commission finds that there is evidence of record that
the proposed uses expressed in this Application should they
be approved would increase vehicular traffic on Haumana Road,
which is narrow, winding, one-lane in areas, and prone to
flooding in inclement weather. The Commission finds that
Haumana Road is regularly used by pedestrians, including
children who use the road to access the bus stop at the top
of the road. The commission finds that granting the
Application would adversely affect the health and safety of
residents who use the roadway, including endangering human
life. The Commission finds that the health and safety of the
residents' and public's use of Haumana Road is a
compelling government interest and that there is no less
restrictive means of ensuring the public's safety while
granting the uses requested in the Application.
ECF No. 185-9, PageID # 3288-89.
Maui Planning Commission noted that section 205-6 of Hawaii
Revised Statutes allows certain “unusual and reasonable
uses” within agricultural and rural districts, in
addition to uses for which the property is classified.
Id., PageID # 3289. The Maui Planning Commission
stated that, to determine whether a proposed use is an
“unusual and reasonable use, ” section 15-15-95
of Hawaii Administrative Rules sets forth
“guidelines” for the granting of an exception to
agricultural restrictions. It was the Maui Planning
Commission's understanding that a Special Use Permit
application could be denied if any of those
“guidelines” was not satisfied. See
Depo. of William Spence at 31 (Feb. 5, 2018), ECF No. 215-18,
PageID # 4649.
allowing “[c]ertain ‘unusual and reasonable'
uses within agricultural . . . districts other than those for
which the district is classified . . ., ”
Chapter15-152013.pdf) (Nov. 2, 2013), section
15-15-95(c) provides five “guidelines” for
determining uses that “may” be permitted:
(1) The use shall not be contrary to the objectives sought to
be accomplished by chapters 205 and 205A, HRS, and the rules
of the commission;
(2) The proposed use would not adversely affect surrounding
(3) The proposed use would not unreasonably burden public
agencies to provide roads and streets, sewers, water drainage
and school improvements, and police and fire protection;
(4) Unusual conditions, trends, and needs have arisen since
the district boundaries and rules were established; and
(5) The land upon which the proposed use is sought is
unsuited for the uses permitted within the district.
Id. These “guidelines” are at the heart
of the parties' dispute in this case.
Commission concluded that subsections 15-15-95(c)(2) and (3)
were not satisfied. With respect to subsection 15-15-95(c)(2),
the Commission concluded that the proposed uses “would
adversely affect the surrounding properties” given
concerns about the safety of Haumana Road. Id.,
PageID # 3290. With respect to subsection 15-15-95(c)(3), the
Commission concluded that the proposed uses would increase
traffic and burden public agencies providing roads and
streets, police and fire protection. The Commission stated
that it had “significant concerns about the narrowness
of Haumana Road and vehicle and pedestrian safety both of
potential visitors to the Property and property owners along
Haumana Road and the fact that the Property is at the
terminus of Haumana Road and therefore traffic to the
Property would negatively impact residents' safety and
use of Haumana Road.” Id.
November 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in this
matter. See ECF No. 1. Count X sought to appeal the
Maui Planning Commission's denial of the 2012 Special Use
Permit application. The Complaint asserted other federal and
state claims, including a prior restraint claim based on the
Maui Planning Commission's allegedly unbridled discretion
to grant or deny the Special Use Permit. See
Complaint, Count V, ECF No. 1, PageID # 37.
January 27, 2016, this court declined to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the agency appeal claim
asserted in Count X. The court stayed the remaining claims
under Pullman abstention. See ECF No. 109,
PageID # 1279 (“The court stays the present case
pending the state circuit court's determination of the
matters raised in Count X.”).
state court, Plaintiffs clearly announced three times that,
while pursuing the administrative appeal in state court, they
were reserving their right to have their federal claims
adjudicated in federal court. First, on February 25, 2016, in
their notice of appeal with respect to the agency decision,
they told the state court in a footnote:
Appellants reserve for independent adjudication in the
federal courts all federal questions, including but not
limited to any federal First or Fourteenth Amendment claims,
and claims arising under the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et
seq, for adjudication before the United States District
Court. See England v La. State Bd. of Med.
Exam'rs, 375 U.S. 411 (1964).
ECF No. 215-5, PageID # 4308 n.1.
in their Opening Brief filed in state court on April 25,
2016, Plaintiffs reiterated that reservation. ECF No. 215-6,
PageID # 4387. This time, Plaintiffs added, “The only
cause of action to be determined in this state court agency
appeal is Maui County's violation of the Hawaii State
Administrative Procedures Act, Hawaii Revised Statutes,
Chapter 91 et seq.” Id.
in oral argument in state court, Plaintiffs stated:
We are required under the Federal Court doctrine to preserve
our federal claims as well as our constitutional claims, U.S.
constitutional claims, so that we do not waive them if we end
up before the Federal Court again.
So we just want to reiterate for the record our preservation
under the U.S. Supreme Court case England vs. Louisiana Board
of Medical Examiners . . . that we are preserving the claims,
specifically regarding the Federal Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 USC, as well as our claims
under the First Amendment for religious freedom and the
Fourteenth Amendment, and we will not be arguing those claims
today but, you know, not waive those arguments if we need to
make them again at the Federal Court.
ECF No. 215-7, PageID # 4417.
November 17, 2016, the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit,
State of Hawaii, affirmed the Maui Planning Commission's
decision, but did not adjudicate any of the claims that this
court had retained but stayed. See ECF No. 183-14.
The state court did not “find clear error in the Maui
Planning Commission's factual findings or error in its
legal conclusions. Moreover, the Commission's decision
does not appear to be arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of
discretion.” Id., PageID # 3005. The state
court further noted:
In reviewing the findings of fact, the Commission's
decision, the record on appeal, and applying Maui County Code
§ 19.510.07 and Hawai`i Administrative Rules §
15-15-95, there is more than sufficient basis for the
Planning Commission's denial of the Special Use Permit.
The Applicants-Appellants argue it was clear error for the
Commission to base its denial on traffic and road safety
concerns. The Commission had more than enough evidence to be
concerned about traffic and road safety. Numerous individuals
expressed concern about traffic and road safety.
The state court went on to determine that
traffic and road safety were not the only concerns of the
Commission. The Commission found, among other things, the
proposed uses would adversely affect surrounding properties
in conflict with Hawai`i Administrative Rules §
15-15-95(c)(2). The record contains significant evidence of
the negative impact the proposed uses would inflict upon
Id., PageID #s 3005-06. No. appeal was filed and the
state-court agency appeal is now a final decision on the
stay of the remaining claims before this court has been
dissolved and the State of Hawaii has intervened as a
Defendant. See ECF Nos. 114 and 207.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD.
20, 2018, this court denied motions for summary judgment.
See ECF 200. The summary judgment standard was set
forth in that order and is incorporated here by reference.
the court are counter motions for summary judgment and a
joinder with respect to the prior restraint claim asserted in
Count V, and the State of Hawaii's unopposed partial
summary judgment motion seeking a determination that only
factual (i.e., as applied) challenges are raised in the
remaining counts. As discussed in the following pages, the
State of Hawaii's motion with respect to Count V and the
County of Maui's joinder therein are granted, and
Plaintiffs' counter motion is denied.
Because Plaintiffs Reserved Their Right to Have This Court
Adjudicate The Prior Restraint Claim Asserted in Count V, the
State of Hawaii's Res Judicata Argument is
State of Hawaii seeks summary judgment with respect to the
prior restraint claim asserted in Count V, arguing that the
state court judgment with respect to the agency appeal should
have res judicata effect and thus bars Count V. This court
outset, this court notes that it stayed this case pending the
state court's determination of Count X, in which
Plaintiffs challenged the Planning Commission's denial of
the permit application. This court did not direct Plaintiffs
to seek a state court determination of any other count pled
in this case, and Plaintiffs filed an administrative appeal
in state court limited to the matters raised in Count X.
See ECF No. 215-5.
does the doctrine of res judicata operate to bar litigation
of counts other than Count X.
judicata doctrine precludes parties or their privies from
relitigating claims that were or could have been raised in an
earlier action in which there is a final judgment on the
merits. See Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94
(1980). Here, while the state court has issued a final
judgment with respect to the agency appeal, that final
judgment has no res judicata effect with respect to the
federal claims originally asserted in this court. The federal
claims were stayed pursuant to this court's exercise of
Pullman abstention, and Plaintiffs specifically told
the state court they were reserving those federal claims for
this court to adjudicate.
England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical
Examiners, the Supreme Court noted that the
“right of a party plaintiff to choose a Federal court
where there is a choice cannot be properly denied.” 375
U.S. 411, 415 (1964) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
It further noted that abstention is a judge-made doctrine
“according appropriate deference to the respective
competence of the state and federal court systems.”
Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). When
this court abstains in favor of allowing a state court to
decide state-law claims (Pullman abstention), this
court, far from abdicating its jurisdiction, only postpones
it. Id. As the Ninth Circuit explains:
The England rule is a salutary one. It preserves the
role of state courts as the final expositors of state law as
recognized by the abstention doctrine, as well as the
interests of putative federal litigants who have the right to
choose a Federal court where there is a choice.
Altos El Granada Inv'rs v. City of Capitola, 583
F.3d 674, 685 (9th Cir. 2009) (quotation marks,