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Opinion

The trial on rail

Could a judge solve the major issue of the mayoral race?

in Rail

Today was the final hearing in Honolulu Rail Case in Federal District Court. Both parties have asked Judge A. Wallace Tashima to render judgment, and today was the last chance for any argument to be made. Judge Tashima, and a standing room only audience, listened as both sides made their case, and announced that he accepted both motions for judgment but: “I haven’t reached that point yet.”

A big burden rests on Judge Tashima’s shoulders, although he may be used to that. After serving in the Marine Corps, Tashima became a lawyer and judge. He served for 18 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

So how does today’s hearing affect the Mayoral Race? I asked Former Governor Ben Cayetano that question after court was adjourned. “A ruling might,” he replied.

In fact, Cayetano hit the nail on the head. The only way that this court case could affect the race is if Judge Tashima comes back with a ruling before the November 6th General Election.

If the judge rules in favor of the anti-rail plaintiffs, it doesn’t matter who becomes mayor. The Honolulu Rail System would be forced to redo years of paperwork and filings with the federal government, and the project might be scrapped for good. But if the judge rules in favor of the government defendants, Cayetano will be forced to win the mayor’s race if he really wants the rail to stop, or else depend on appeals, which could take years.

Truly, Honolulu rail has become a pivotal point in our entire government. An issue that started off being an executive maneuver by former Mayor Mufi Hannemann was forced by the legislative entity of the City Council to a public vote. Before construction started, former Governors Cayetano and Waihee lodged a lawsuit against the City and County and Federal Transit Authority. When the judiciary did not move quickly enough, Cayetano made the decision to run for mayor to settle the matter unilaterally.

Although American government prides itself on the “balance of powers” amongst the three branches through which it operates; it feels, on all levels, that the judicial branch is the most ineffective and uninteresting. Take, for example, the amount of media coverage granted to the President of the United States and the Supreme Court. The only reason the Court was in the headlines earlier this year was that it was handling a piece of legislation pushed forward by the President.

But if Judge Tashima comes to a conclusion before November, the judicial branch may just get the spotlight for a while.

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