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Conner v. Aila

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 27, 2019

DE MONT R.D. CONNER; RACHEL L. KAILIANU, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM AILA, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING VERIFIED MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, ECF NO. 11

          J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On May 6, 2019, pro se Plaintiffs De Mont R.D. Conner (“Conner”) and Rachel L. Kailianu (“Kailianu”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) initiated this action against Defendants State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (“DHHL”); DHHL officials; commissioners of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (“HHC”) (collectively the “State Defendants”);[1] and the United States (collectively “Defendants”). On June 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed nearly identical Verified Motions for Temporary Restraining Order (“Motion for TRO”) and for Preliminary Injunction (“Motion for PI”). ECF Nos. 10, 11. The Motion for TRO was denied on June 10, 2019 (“TRO Order”). ECF No. 15. The instant Motion for PI seeks the same relief as that sought by the Motion for TRO-an order “enjoining [the] State Defendants . . . from Ejecting or Evicting the Plaintiffs . . . from their Home on Hawaiian Homes Lease Land . . . .” ECF No. 11 at PageID #86-87.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for PI is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The background of this action is set forth in detail in the TRO Order. See ECF No. 15 at PageID #135-37. Because the parties and the court are familiar with this background, the court sets forth an abbreviated background sufficient to provide context for this order.

         Plaintiffs allege that they are “native Hawaiians” and “beneficiaries of a ‘public trust' created by the Hawaii Admission Act, ” that Kailianu holds a homestead lease for land pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and that Conner is a successor to Kailianu's homestead lease. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4-5, ECF No. 1 at PageID #3. In September 2018, DHHL filed a Complaint for Ejectment in Hawaii state court, seeking to eject Plaintiffs from Kailianu's residential lease (No. 4692) for lot no. 337 in Nanakuli, Hawaii. ECF No. 11 ¶ 1 at PageID #87. The state-court action remains pending, with a status conference currently set for September 10, 2019. ECF No. 25-3 at PageID #215.

         Meanwhile, on May 6, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the instant action in federal court “challenging the homestead lease program, ” and claiming that by the state-court ejectment action, Defendants have breached the public trust created by the Admission Act and violated Plaintiffs' rights protected by the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. ECF No. 1 at PageID #2. Plaintiffs further allege that by the ejectment action, Defendants “decided to ‘Take'” Plaintiffs' home. Id. at PageID #9. On May 10, 2019, this court granted Plaintiffs' applications to proceed in forma pauperis and directed service of the Complaint. ECF No. 5.

         On June 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed Motions for TRO and PI seeking to enjoin the Defendants from ejecting them from their home. ECF Nos. 10, 11. On June 10, 2019, the court denied the Motion for TRO. ECF No. 15. On July 29, 2019, the State Defendants filed a Response to the Motion for PI. ECF No. 25. Plaintiff did not file a Reply. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” never awarded as of right. Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008) (citations omitted). “To warrant a preliminary injunction, [Plaintiffs] must demonstrate that [they] meet[] all four of the elements of the preliminary injunction test established in [Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7 (2008)].” DISH Network Corp. v. F.C.C., 653 F.3d 771, 776 (9th Cir. 2011). To meet the Winter elements, Plaintiffs “must establish (1) that [they are] likely to succeed on the merits, (2) that [they are] likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in [their] favor, and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest.” BOKF, NA v. Estes, 923 F.3d 558, 561-62 (9th Cir. 2019) (citation and quotation marks omitted). “[I]f a plaintiff can only show that there are ‘serious questions going to the merits'-a lesser showing than likelihood of success on the merits-then a preliminary injunction may still issue if the ‘balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor,' and the other two Winter factors are satisfied.” Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 709 F.3d 1281, 1291 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs' Motion for PI is denied for the same reason their Motion for TRO was denied-they fail to establish the requisite Winter elements to obtain the relief they seek. The Motion for PI does not show (1) serious questions going to the merits, let alone that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits, (2) why they will likely suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction, (3) why the balance of equities tips in their favor, or (4) why an injunction is in the public interest.

         A. Likelihood of ...


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