Maui jury confirms Kaua‘ula Valley parcel owned by Native Hawaiian family
LAHAINA – A Second Circuit Court jury on Maui on Friday, June 23, returned a verdict in favor of Ke’eaumoku Kapu and against Makila Land Company regarding a 3.4-acre native kuleana parcel in Kaua’ula Valley, Lahaina, known as “Land Commission Award No. 6507, ‘apana 1.”
Makila Land Company is managed by West Maui Land Company. In 2002, Makila Land sought quiet title to the 3.4-acre parcel in Second Circuit Court.
The Maui court initially granted summary judgment on its claim, which Kapu appealed.
In 2007, the Intermediate Court of Appeals reversed that decision in Makila Land Co. v. Kapu, 114 Hawaii 56, 156 P.3d 482 (App. 2006), and sent the case back for trial.
The jury trial was held over four days last week before the Honorable Peter T. Cahill with a jury composed of Maui County residents.
It involved six witnesses, including two experts on the Hawaiian language, Moana Rowland and Melelani Pang.
Kapu obtained his interest by descent through five generations from the original Land Commission awardee, while Makila Land argued it obtained its claim through another person – unknown to the family – claiming to be related to the original awardee who sold their interest to Pioneer Mill in 1892.
The jury decided in favor of Kapu’s claim and against Makila Land’s claim.
Kapu was represented by attorneys Lance D. Collins and Bianca K. Isaki. Makila Land was represented by Michael Gibson and Francis Hogan of Ashford Wriston.
Kapu said, “I want to mahalo everyone, especially all the families, that have supported us in this case that has gone back almost 17 years. It’s not over, but today was an important victory for us.”
Collins said, “We’d like to thank the jury for taking a week out of their lives to hear and decide this important case. We believed the evidence could only support one conclusion, and that was that Ke’eaumoku Kapu and his family are the true owners of the kuleana, and that was what the jury found.”
While quiet title cases to kuleana lands are not uncommon, it is unusual for them to be tried by a jury. The jury of Maui residents was composed of nine women and three men.