This listing of cases comes from Richardson, William S., and William S. Richardson School of Law. Ka Lama Kū O Ka Noʻeau = The Standing Torch of Wisdom: Selected Opinions of William S. Richardson, Chief Justice, Hawaiʻi Supreme Court, 1966-1982. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law, 2009. Parallel citations to the Pacific Reporter are given for access.
In re Robinson, 49 Haw. 429, 421 P.2d 570 (1966).
Palama v. Sheehan, 50 Haw. 298, 440 P.2d 95 (1968).
In re Ashford, 50 Haw. 314, 440 P.2d 76 (1968).
In re Kelley, 50 Haw. 567, 445 P.2d 538 (1968).
Spears v. Honda, 51 Haw. 1, 449 P.2d 130 (1968).
Akizaki v. Fong, 51 Haw. 354, 461 P.2d 221 (1968).
Rodrigues v. State, 52 Haw. 156, 472P.2d 509 (1970).
Madeiros v. Kiyosaki, 52 Haw. 436, 478 P.2d 314 (1966).
Yin v. Midkiff, 52 Haw. 537, 481 P.2d 109 (1971).
Akamine, v. Haw'n. Packing & Crating Co., 53 Haw. 406, 495 P.2d 1146 (1972).
County of Hawaii v. Sotomura, 55 Haw. 176, 517 P.2d 57 (1973).
Leong v. Takasaki, 55 Haw. 398, 520 P.2d 758 (1974).
Kelley v. Kokua Sales, 56 Haw. 204, 532 P.2d 673 (1975) (dissenting).
City and County of Honolulu v. Bennett, 57 Haw. 195, 552 P.2d 1380 (1976).
In the Matter of Sanborn, 57 Haw. 585, 562 P.2d 771 (1977).
State v. Zimring, 58 Haw. 106, 566 P.2d 725 (1977).
In re Kamakana, 58 Haw. 632, 574 P.2d 1346 (1978).
United Congregational Churches v. Kamamalu, 59 Haw. 334, 582 P.2d 208 (1978).
Life of the Land v. Land Use Commission, 61 Haw. 3, 594 P.2d 1079 (1979).
Ahuna v. Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, 64 Haw. 327, 640 P.2d 1161 (1982).
County of Kauai v. Pacific Standard Life Ins. Co., 65 Haw. 318, 653 P.2d 766 (1982).
Akau v. Olohana Corp., 65 Haw. 383, 653 P.2d 1130 (1982).
Reppun v. Board of Water Supply, 65 Haw. 531, 656 P.2d 57 (1982).
Robinson v. Ariyoshi, 65 Haw. 641, 658 P.2d 287 (1982).
Kalipi v. Hawaii Trust, 66 Haw. 1, 656 P.2d 745 (1982).
The Richardson Court helped expand native Hawaiian rights and gave the public more access to beaches. The Court applied ancient Hawaiian concepts - including the idea that certain resources, such as water, could not be privately owned - to ensure public ownership of resources. It awarded new land created by lava flows to the state, instead of to nearby property owners. It broadened the rights of citizens to challenge important environmental and land development decisions. The Richardson Court's new yet old way of thinking sometimes drew criticism from government and the legal profession but has become recognized as an enlightened approach for Hawai'i.
In 1966, Richardson reflected on his new role as Chief Justice of Hawaii's high court:
"The man who is Chief Justice must balance the rules of the past to conform with the state of society today. He must bring the old rules in line with modern times. He must remember that those rules were made under a different structure.
"He must live in the past - but not only the past. He must adopt the fundamental principles of the past and bring them intofocus with the present. And in Hawaii, the present - like the past - is a time of migration."
From Richardson, William S., and William S. Richardson School of Law. Ka Lama Kū O Ka Noʻeau = The Standing Torch of Wisdom: Selected Opinions of William S. Richardson, Chief Justice, Hawaiʻi Supreme Court, 1966-1982. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law, v, 2009.
In a series of opinions beginning in 1968, Chief Justice Richardson redefined boundaries on beach front property. Beginning with In re Ashford where Richardson used the intent of King Kamehameha V when transferring property to clarify the rule that ancient tradition, custom, practice, and usage rather than newer U.S. property law would determine the boundary line in Hawaii. It was, he reasoned, guaranteed by Hawaii's Constitution.
In re Ashford, 50 Haw. 314 (1968).
Seaward boundary is along the upper reaches of the beach front where vegetation or a debris line exists.
In 1866, Kamahameha V, King of Hawaii, granted two Royal Patents (land). One was granted to Kamakaheki and the other to Kahiko. In 1963, the makai boundaries to these parcels located in Kainalu, Molokai, were at issue before the Richardson Court. Was the seaward boundary at mean high water as contended by the Ashfords and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey or was it 20' to 30' above that line along the upper reaches where the vegetation and debris line is located? The trial court, the Land Court with Judge Samuel King presiding determined that the boundary was the intersection of the shore with the horizontal plane of mean high water.
The Richardson Court looked at the intent of King Kamehameha V when the land was originally given to Kamakaheki and Kahiko as determinant. Richardson wrote that property rights are determined by the law in existence at the time such rights vest. It is, therefore, not a question for a modern day surveyor. Reputation evidence (not allowed by the Land Court in this case and a reason for the appeal) given by kamaaina witnesses is permitted in land disputes in Hawaii because exceptions to the English common law governing property inter alia for ancient tradition, custom, practice and usage were guaranteed in the Hawaii Constitution.
Where is the boundary line when significant erosion has changed the beach front? The question came to the Richardson Court in 1973 in County of Hawaii v. Sotomura.
County of Hawaii v. Sotomura, 55 Haw. 176 (1973).
Seaward boundary is the vegetation line.
Ocean front property that was part of the Kalapana Black Sand Beach, a unique tourist attraction and surfing spot that the County of Hawaii wanted to acquire under an eminent domain proceeding. The property is a long, narrow parcel of land bordered on one side by the Puna Coast Road and on the other by the sea. Erosion had occurred since the registration of the land with the Land Court. In Sotomura, the question was where the boundary was - the limu line, the vegetation line, or the debris line? The trial court found that the boundary had moved further mauka (inland) due to erosion and located it at the debris line.
The Richardson Court held that "where the wash of the waves is marked by both a debris line and a vegetation line lying further mauka; the presumption is that the upper reaches of the wash of the waves over the course of a year lies along the line marking the edge of vegetation growth. The upper reaches of the wash of the waves at high tide during one season of the year may be further mauka than the upper reaches of the wash of the waves at high tide during the other seasons. Thus while the debris line may change from day to day or from season to season, the vegetation line is a more permanent monument, its growth limited by the year's highest wash of the waves." [55 Haw. at 182.]
The seaward boundary of the lot should have been located along upper reaches of wash of waves as evidenced by vegetation line, and not as evidenced by debris line.
Finally, and most significantly, who owns the land between the vegetation line and the water? In Sanborn, Richardson ruled that land between the vegetation line and the water was held in the public trust by the State and its ownership could not be relinquished.
In the Matter of Sanborn, 57 Haw. 585 (1977).
Land below the seaward boundary is held in the public trust by the State and cannot be relinquished.
The Sanborns sought Kauai County approval of a subdivision of a beachfront lot into two smaller lots. The trial court found that the ‘vegetation and debris line’ represents the upper reaches of the wash of waves, the Sanborns' beachfront title line. The Richardson Court held that regardless of whether or not there has been permanent erosion, the Sanborns' beachfront title boundary is the upper reaches of the wash of waves. In addition, the Richardson Court approved of its reasoning in Sotomura that land below high water mark is held in public trust by the State, whose ownership may not be relinquished, except where relinquishment is consistent with certain public purposes.
Palama v. Sheehan, 50 Haw. 298, 440 P.2d 95 (1968).
The right of way over the land based on an ancient Hawaiian right or reasonable necessity.
Kalipi v. Hawaiian Trust Co., 66 Haw. 1; 656 P.2d 745 (1982).
In Kalipi, Chief Justice Richardson citing Art. XII, Section 7 of the Hawaii State Constitution said that the court has an obligation to preserve and enforce native Hawaiian customs and traditions. Descendants living on an ahupuaa practicing the ancient Hawaiian way of life can enter an ahupuaa to gather specifically enumerated items. () However gathering rights accrue only to persons who reside within the ahupuaa not merely own property in it.