Monday, August 15, 2011

Honolulu Rail Transit Project Challenged in Federal Court -- Answer and Reply

Case Name: et al. v. Federal Transit Administration et al.

Case Number: 1:2011cv00307

Court: Hawaii District Court

Presiding Judge: A. Wallace Tashima

Rail Route Map from

Plaintiffs: The Plaintiffs are; Cliff Slater; Benjamin J. Cayetano; Walter Heen; Hawaii’s Thousand Friends; The Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation; Randall W. Roth; and Dr. Michael Uechi.

Defendants: The named Defendants are the Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”); Leslie Rogers, in his official capacity as FTA Regional Administrator; Peter M. Rogoff, in his official capacity as FTA Administrator; US Department of Transportation; Ray LaHood, in his official capacity as Secretary of Transportation; The City and County of Honolulu; Wayne Yoshioka, in his official capacity as Director of the City and County of Honolulu Department of Transportation (this is an error by Plaintiffs—it should be Department of Transportation Services).

Complaint: Nicholas C. Yost, the California attorney representing the Plaintiffs, filed the complaint on May 12 , 2011, in Hawaii's federal district court challenging the Honolulu Rail Transit Project. Plaintiffs list the following counts in their complaint:

  • Count 1: Defining the Purpose and Need so Narrowly as to Preclude Consideration of All Reasonable Alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 2: Failure to Consider all Reasonable Alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 3: Failure Properly to Analyze the Environmental Consequences of Alternatives (NEPA)
  • Count 4: Improper Segmentation (NEPA)
  • Count 5: Failure to Identify and Evaluate Use of Native Hawaiian Burials and Traditional Cultural Properties (Section 4(f))
  • Count 6: Arbitrary and Capricious Evaluation of the Project’s Use of Section 4(f) Resources (Section 4(f))
  • Count 7: Improper Project Approval (Section 4(f))
  • Count 8: Failure to Account for Effects on Historic Properties (NHPA)
Plaintiffs are asking the court to issue an injunction to stop the project and attorneys’ fees.

Answer: The FTA filed its answer to the complaint on August 12, 2011. The complaint is the usual kind of “kitchen sink” approach used in environmental impact statement challenges to transportation projects. Consequently, the FTA’s answer is a standard format generally used in these cases—admissions, denials, affirmative defenses.
Next Steps: The other Defendants should be filling a reply at some point soon. All parties should be aware that these kinds of cases seldom go to trial. Whether the facts, as determined by the court, support Plaintiffs’ allegations will be more thoroughly briefed by the parties in summary judgment briefs. That’s when the case becomes interesting.

Update 08/16/2011: Civil Beat reports that City defendants filed their answer in September.
Visit Honolulu Rail Transit Project for more on this project.

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