Judges decide Governor’s emergency proclamation stands; exception made for plaintiff

Always Investigating

A three-judge panel has ruled that Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation closing off access to most of Mauna Kea still stands, but with one exception, for one man.

Always Investigating got exclusive reaction to the ruling this afternoon.

Just the plaintiff — Hawaii Island cultural practitioner Paul Neves — is allowed access up the mountain but under strict conditions. We’re told more challenges to expand access are expected.

The ruling follows a temporary restraining order hearing yesterday. The order allows for the Neves alone to ascend Mauna Kea for cultural reasons, with several restrictions.

“I’ve got to be cautious in this one,” Neves exclusively told KHON2, shortly after the ruling. “This affects our religious rights and our right to access. We’ve got to be really careful here. It’s not a clear one, I’ll tell you that much, because we’re not clear on it. So we’ve just got to digest it.”

Neves is only allowed up Mauna Kea during daylight hours, either on foot or driving himself. He must also give no fewer than six hours’ notice.

Always Investigating spoke exclusively with both sides’ attorneys after the court held a closed-door meeting with them to go over the terms and next steps late this afternoon.

“We’re pleased to accept the court’s ruling that essentially affirms the validity of the emergency proclamation as to all other individuals,” said Larry Tong, senior deputy counsel with the state Department of the Attorney General. “They will be barred from access to the mountain essentially for public safety reasons.”

KHON2 asked Tong, what about others who feel that they deserve similar access whether it’s for cultural practitioners, freedom of speech or freedom of commerce?

“That is part of the hearings that will be ongoing next week,” Tong said, “and we can’t comment at this time because it’s still pending before the court.”

Still pending is the preliminary injunction phase of hearings taking place in court next week Thursday, Aug. 1, and Friday, Aug. 2.

“The hearing next week will have witnesses and exhibits,” explains David Kopper, the plaintiff’s attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. “There will be a fuller factual record.”

Kopper said Neves will be at the Oahu hearings.

“He’s on Mauna Kea as we speak but he is looking forward to come to court and testify,” Kopper said.

The emergency proclamation expires on Friday, Aug. 2.

We asked Tong, does he anticipate that the governor will be extending the emergency proclamation?

“I can’t speak for the governor,” Tong said, “and that will be responsive to whatever the conditions are.”

Legal experts tell me the ruling is likely to prompt similar filings by others seeking access to the mountain.

We asked Tong, does he expect further actions to come after this one?

“I can’t comment on that,” he said. “We have always been responding to other actions and with great restraint and respect for the law and that’s what we’re asking from everyone. We’re pleased to present our evidence in court for a dispassionate, unemotional review of all of the evidence and all of the factors.”

The provision gives conditions for the plaintiff’s ascension.

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