Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court
Plaintiff-Appellant John Corboy and a number of real property owners and taxpayers brought claims against various state and county Defendants-Appellants to get an exemption from property taxes equal to an exemption granted to Hawaiian homestead lessees under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA). Plaintiffs are not native Hawaiians, but argued that the tax exemptions for homestead lessees involve race-based discrimination in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Federal civil rights laws because only native Hawaiians are eligible to become homestead lessees under the HHCA. Accordingly, they sought a refund of real property taxes paid in excess of what they would have been assessed had each of them been granted an exemption. The State filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that the disputed exemptions did not violate the equal protection clause because the exemptions were not based upon whether a taxpayer was a native Hawaiian, but instead they were based on whether the taxpayer was a homestead lessee of HHCA land. The tax appeal court granted the Stateâs motion, and on appeal, Plaintiffs challenged the courtâs awarding of the summary judgment. The Supreme Court found that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their challenges to the constitutionality of the tax exemption and the HHCA. The record reflected that the Plaintiffs were not interested in participating in the homestead lease program and therefore they could not establish an injury sufficient to give them standing to challenge the exemption. The Court vacated the tax appeal courtâs judgment, and ordered the lower court to dismiss Plaintiffsâ cases for lack of jurisdiction.