State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo – The Case That Brought Down the State of Hawai‘i

One year after the United States Congress passed the joint resolution apologizing for the Unit­ed States overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government in 1993, an appeal was heard by the State of Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals that centered on a claim that the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist. In State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo, the appellate court stated:

Lorenzo appeals, arguing that the lower court erred in denying his pretrial motion (Motion) to dismiss the indictment. The essence of the Motion is that the [Ha­waiian Kingdom] (Kingdom) was recognized as an independent sovereign nation by the United States in numerous bilateral treaties; the Kingdom was illegally overthrown in 1893 with the assistance of the United States; the Kingdom still exists as a sovereign nation; he is a citizen of the Kingdom; therefore, the courts of the State of Hawai‘i have no jurisdiction over him. Lorenzo makes the same argument on appeal. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the lower court correctly denied the Motion.

While the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, it admitted “the court’s rationale is open to question in light of international law.” By not applying international law, the court concluded that the trial court’s decision was correct because Lorenzo “presented no factual (or legal) basis for concluding that the Kingdom [continues to exist] as a state in accordance with recognized attributes of a state’s sovereign nature.”

In other words, the appellate court was applying the rules of evidence that applied in State of Hawai‘i courts. According to the rules of evidence, there is a presumption that the court is lawful and has jurisdiction of the case, unless the defendant provides rebuttable evidence that it doesn’t have jurisdiction. An example would be where a prosecutor files a criminal complaint against a person for committing manslaughter in traffic court. The defendant’s attorney would then file a motion to dismiss stating that the traffic court does not have jurisdiction over an allegation of manslaughter, and that the proper court would be the circuit court that has jurisdiction.

Lorenzo’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss based on the argument that his client had immunity from prosecution. So the appellate court stated that Lorenzo provided no evidence that the Hawaiian Kingdom exists as a State that would have provided for his immunity because he should have been on trial in a Hawaiian Kingdom court and not a State of Hawai‘i court. Since 1994, the Lorenzo case became a precedent case that served as the basis for denying defendants’ motions to dismiss where they claimed immunity. In State of Hawai‘i v. Fergerstrom, the appellate court stated, “We affirm that relevant precedent [in State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo],” and that defendants have an evidentiary burden that shows the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist. The federal court, in 2002, referred to the Lorenzo case as the Lorenzo principle.

The Supreme Court, in State of Hawai‘i v. Armitage, clarified the evidentiary burden that Lo­renzo principle placed upon defendants. The court stated:

Lorenzo held that, for jurisdictional purposes, should a defendant demonstrate a factual or legal basis that the Kingdom of Hawai‘i “exists as a state in accordance with recognized attributes of a state’s foreign nature[,]” and that he or she is a citizen of that sovereign state, a defendant may be able to argue that the courts of the State of Hawai‘i lack jurisdiction over him or her.

What is profound is that if the appellate court applied international law in its decision, it would have confirmed the continued existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom as a State and ruled in favor of Lorenzo. International law recognizes the difference between the State and its government, and that there is a presumption that the State continues to exist despite its government being militarily overthrown. As Judge James Crawford explained, “there is a presumption that the State continues to exist, with its rights and obligations despite a period in which there is no effective government.” He also stated that “belligerent occupation does not affect the continuity of the State, even where there exists no government claiming to represent the occupied State.” In other words, all Lorenzo needed to provide was evidence that the Hawaiian Kingdom “did” exist as a State, which would then shift the burden on the prosecution to provide rebuttable evidence that the United States extinguished the Hawaiian State in accordance with recognized modes of extinction under international law, a treaty of cession.

The appellate court did acknowledge that Lorenzo, in fact, provided evidence in his motion to dismiss “that the [Hawaiian Kingdom] was recognized as an independent sovereign nation by the United States in numerous bilateral treaties” In other words, the “bilateral treaties” were the evidence of Hawaiian statehood. Therefore, the appellate court mistakenly placed the burden on the defendant to provide evidence of the Kingdom’s continued existence, when it should have determined from the trial records if the prosecution provided rebuttable evidence against the presumption of the Kingdom’s continued existence as a State, which was evidenced by the “bilateral treaties.” The prosecution provided no such evidence.

If, for the sake of argument, the prosecution argued before the trial court that the 1898 joint resolution of annexation extinguished Hawaiian statehood, it would be prevented from doing so under the rules of evidence because the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded in 1988, in a legal opinion, that it is “unclear which constitutional power Congress exercised when it acquired Hawaii by joint resolution.”

The opinion by the Department of Justice is an admission against interest, which is an out-of-court statement made by the federal government prior to the date of Lorenzo’s trial that would have bound the prosecutor from claiming otherwise. Furthermore, a congressional joint resolution or a statute are not sources of international law, and as such could not have affected Hawaiian statehood. According to the American Law Institute, a “rule of international law is one that has been accepted as such by the international community of states (a) in the form of customary law; (b) by international agreement; or (c) by derivation from general principles common to the major legal systems of the world.” Only by a treaty of cession, which is an “international agreement,” could the United States have extinguished the Hawaiian Kingdom as a State. Congressional laws are not treaties of cession.

The significance of the Lorenzo case is that the appellate court, when international law is applied, answered its own question in the negative as to “whether the present governance system should be recognized,” and that a “state has an obligation not to recognize or treat as a state an entity that has attained the qualifications for statehood as a result of a threat or use of armed force.” In other words, the State of Hawai‘i cannot be recognized as a State of the United States, which arose “as a result of a…use of armed force.” In 1893, President Grover Cleveland concluded that the provisional government, which is a predecessor of the State of Hawai‘i, “owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States.” Therefore, a proper interpretation of State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo renders all courts of the State of Hawai‘i to be unlawful, and that every judgment, order or decree that emanated from any court of the State of Hawai‘i is void pursuant to the Lorenzo principle.

As such, these decisions are subject to collateral attack, which is where a defendant has a right to impeach a decision previously made against him because the “court that rendered judgment lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter.” While these decisions are subject to collateral attack, there is the problem as to what court is competent to receive a motion to set aside judgment because all courts of the State of Hawai‘i are not lawful pursuant to the Lorenzo principle.

“If a person or body assumes to act as a court without any semblance of legal authority so to act and gives a purported judgment,” explains the American Law Institute, “the judgment is, of course, wholly void.” And according to Moore, “Courts that act beyond…constraints act without power; judgments of courts lacking subject matter jurisdiction are void—not de­serving of respect by other judicial bodies or by the litigants.” Furthermore, courts who were made aware of the American occupation prior to their decisions would have met the constitu­ent elements of the war crime of depriving a protected person of a fair and regular trial.

17 thoughts on “State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo – The Case That Brought Down the State of Hawai‘i

    • Frank, from what I gathered in this article and the previous one is that all courts in Hawaii lack subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk, as a matter of procedure sent the appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That Court has proper jurisdiction since it is not situated in Occupied territory and can address decisions made by its lower courts. If it reviews how its lower corrects errored in not applying international law as required in the Lorenzo principle and actually if it applies the principle correctly then it should determine the lower courts in all cases lacked subject matter jurisdiction and all decisions are null and void. Further, I think as a rule it can be mandated to order all courts in Hawaii to transform into article 2 courts in order to have proper jurisdiction in order to apply the Lorenzo principle correctly. Let’s see if this appellate court has any honor. If they choose to be dishonorable then there are other options. What we all have to realize is that U.S. courts do not have the final say to determine if we are occupied and how we end the occupation. MHO

  1. Honestly, it’s like Jews trying to get justice against Nazi’s for war crimes… in a Nazi court. The Nazi’s will never rule against their fellow Nazi’s.
    In our case the international law community seems reluctant to step in because they’ve become bedfellows with our Nazi’s… so what options does that leave us? I’m beginning to lose hope. I’m beginning to think that like my kūpuna before me I will die never having known freedom.

    • The only people that they go after are the black Africans,if you are white chances are you will escape any penalty.Like baby bush condeliza rice Barack Obama Donald trump all war criminals any penalty aole

      • They go after middle easterners too, but I suppose to them we’re all black 🤷🏽‍♀️.
        I get what Dr. Sai is trying to do, he’s trying to use their own laws against them to hold them accountable, but how do you do that when no one will even hear you out in the first place?! That’s a daunting assignment & I don’t envy Dr. Sai in that… I don’t know how he manages to stay so level headed & calm. Thank God for Dr. Keanu Sai. ❤️

        • Aloha get your point about the middle eastern leaders, but I don’t think the ICJ went after them it was the usa that did,because they wanted the oil.They did same thing in Central America,they assassinated quite a few there and Middle East.Then they have the nerve to criticize Russia for invading Ukraine.

          • No I was referring to the Iraq occupation of Kuwait, as that’s the most similar situation to ours… which is why Hussein mentioned Hawai’i’s occupation.

          • It’s all business. A billion in loan guarantees in 2014 and 2015 to begin the insurgency. And another 40 this past month after the transfer of weapons from the war on Afghanistan coupled with private contractors like Erik Prince makes for a war theater. Not to mention anything about countries dealing and trading bilaterally without the US or dollar.

    • Aloha, the whole point of these court proceedings is to provide all the evidence and correct application of the Law to box the Court into a corner. They can’t use the “..political question..” to dismiss this case and they can’t apply the “Lorenzo Principle” incorrectly like the lower courts now that the misapplication of the principle has been broth forward into the record. The court’s rationale has to be in line with international law as require by it’s own principle. It’s failure to do so will provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that it is being weaponized and used in lawfare to injure protected persons in an occupied territory. This evidence can be used at a later time at an international venue. Your reference regarding Nazis did not take into account that they were tried and convicted for their crimes. Don’t be discouraged because we live in different times from our kupuna. They had to deal with a rising empire growing in power. We are dealing with a declining empire that is losing power. In past posts I have spoken about why and when the international community will stop being afraid to take action. That time is getting closer as we see a shift in the international power structure never seen before in modern history. Keep the faith.

      • Good point I’m feeling the SAME it’s like the SAME crooks is running there games in here also prolong so that we give up trying and roll with theses people the disagreeable one’s sad but true


  3. the whole world is corrupted by the elites UN included the truth is there and isn’t going anywhere till we get some accountability everything is already there the LAWS OF CORRUPTION PREVAILS

  4. So much negative. How about positive good energy to support the good. Good vibes, that the highest good will happen. We hui together spiritually to support Kea’au Sai and.. Never mind the evil, it will self destruct. Mahalo

    • How can you say negative when it was already applied hellooo we have always been positive from the beginning remember we are the agreeables while the disagreeable rule humanity suck on that for WHILE

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