Lawsuit challenges property tax exemptions for native Hawaiians

Jamie Winpenny

HONOLULU — H. William Burgess, long known for his involvement in lawsuits challenging native Hawaiian entitlements, is now involved in a lawsuit challenging property tax exemptions for native Hawaiians. The lawsuit was filed on September 15.

The lawsuit, CORBOY v. LOUIE objects to the fact that petitioners (who are non-native Hawaiians) pay significantly more in property taxes than native Hawaiians living on homestead lands. The petitioners assert that RICE v. CAYETANO, in which the Supreme Court ruled that “native Hawaiian” is a racial classification, and is therefore unconstitutional under the 15th amendment as a voting eligibility requirement. The lawsuit extrapolates that ruling to deem biased taxation based on race as similarly unconstitutional.

In an email to local news media, Aloha for All, Inc., a non-profit organization, says “The use of such a destructive power by the state and counties to discriminate between homeowners based solely on their racial ancestry, destroys the concept of equal protection at its most direct and basic level.”