The International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild Enter Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden Federal Court Case

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) entered the federal case of Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden, et al., at the United States District Court for the District of Hawai‘i. This morning, the three organizations collectively filed a “Motion for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief on Behalf of Nongovernmental Organizations with Expertise in International Law and Human Rights Law.” Lawyers for the IADL, NLG and WPLC, are Natali Segovia, Joseph Chase, and Charles Heaukulani. Segovia and Chase are also members of the NLG.

The Legal Information Institute explains that amicus curiae is “Latin for ‘friend of the court.’ Frequently, a person or group who is not a party to an action, but has a strong interest in the matter, will petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the intent of influencing the court’s decision. Such briefs are called ‘amicus briefs.’”

The Motion states:

Counsel for amici curiae International Association for Democratic Lawyers, National Lawyers Guild, and the Water Protector Legal Collective—nongovernmental organizations with expertise in International Law and Human Rights Law, hereby move this Court for an order allowing it to file the attached amicus curiae brief in support of Plaintiff, the Hawaiian Kingdom. In support of this motion, the movant states:

1. The nongovernmental organizations whose views are represented in this brief have expertise in public international law, international human rights, humanitarian law, and norms regarding statehood, sovereignty, and self-determination.

2. Movants submit this brief to ensure a proper understanding and application of the international law and historical precedent relevant to this case regarding Article II occupation courts. The amici are additionally human rights organizations that have an interest in ensuring an informed interpretation of international human rights law in domestic jurisprudence.

3. Plaintiff has consented to the filing of this brief. Defendant County of Kaua‘i has indicated it opposes the filing of this brief. Other Defendants have either not taken a position or not entered an appearance in this case.

4. For the foregoing reasons, we respectfully request the Court’s permission to file the amicus brief attached hereto. In the alternative, we request a pre-motion conference with the Court for leave to file such a brief.

The IADL/NLG/WPLC supports the Hawaiian Kingdom’s position that since the U.S. District Court is located within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom and not within the territory of the United States, it’s authority can only come as an Article II Court and not an Article III Court. Articles II and III refers to the U.S. Constitution where Article II describes the authority of the President and Article III describes the authority of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. According to Professor Bederman, who authored a law article titled “Article II Courts,”:

What, then, is distinctive about a court established under Article II of the Constitution? First, executive tribunals are established without an act of Congress or any other form of legislative concurrence. Congressional intent concerning the status of a presidential court is irrelevant because no congressional approval is needed. The fact that the President alone can create an executive court places it outside the scope of Article III of the Constitution, which demands that Congress shall establish courts inferior to the Supreme Court. Second, the executive courts are created pursuant only to the power and authority granted to the President in Article II of the Constitution. In practice, the only presidential power that would call for the creation of a court is that arising from his responsibility as Commander in Chief of the armed services and his consequent war-making authority.

Article II courts were established in Germany after the Nazis surrendered in 1945. Since then, western Germany was occupied by the United States, France and Great Britain until 1955 when a treaty of peace came into effect between Germany and the three occupying States that changed the state of affairs under international law from a state of war to a state of peace. During the occupation, these Article II Courts had jurisdiction “over all persons in the occupied territory,” except for Allied armed forces, their dependents, and civilian officials, for “all offenses against the laws and usages of war, all offenses under any proclamation, law, ordinance, notice or order issued by or under the authority of the Military Government or of the Allied Forces, and all offenses under the laws of the occupied territory or any part thereof.”

In its amicus, the IADL/NLG/WPLC explain, “Most importantly, functioning as an Article II court here would not undermine all this Court’s past judgments; previous judgments and laws of the United States would remain in effect unless they are at odds with the laws of the occupied Hawaiian Kingdom.” They then cite the 2014 proclamation of the Council of Regency of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Provisional Laws:

We do hereby proclaim that from the date of this proclamation all laws that have emanated from an unlawful legislature since the insurrection began on July 6, 1887 to the present, to include United States legislation, shall be the provisional laws of the Realm subject to ratification by the Legislative Assembly of the Hawaiian Kingdom once assembled, with the express proviso that these provisional laws do not run contrary to the express, reason and spirit of the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom prior to July 6, 1887, the international laws of occupation and international humanitarian law, and if it be the case they shall be regarded as invalid and void.

The amicus concludes with:

Under the concept of void ab initio, there are structures that have no legal effect from inception. The United States occupation of Hawai‘i began with unclean hands, and this can only be remedied by a clean slate and a new beginning. Recognition of the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States through Declaratory Judgment is not only a redressable claim, it is long overdue and would only be consistent with what is already known to the international community and clear under international law. Additionally, granting the Hawaiian Kingdom injunctive relief would acknowledge the Kingdom’s continuous sovereignty, mitigate the United States’ liability for its war crimes against the Hawaiian people, and apply local law as required of an occupying power by the international law of war. Acknowledging extraterritoriality and occupation would have the practical effect of applying the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom but as was the case with prior occupation courts, this would not nullify any prior decisions of any of the courts currently operating in Hawai‘i, so long as they are not inconsistent with local law.

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