Robert Thomas
Robert Thomas

BY ROBERT THOMAS – On Tuesday, February 26, 2013 from 7:15 – 8:309 p.m., the University of Hawaii Law School is sponsoring a talk about “The PLDC and Property Rights in Hawaii,” which will feature our Damon Key colleague Mark M. Murakami.

PLDC refers to the Public Land Development Corporation, a state agency created in 2011 to develop state-owned lands, primarily in concert with private entities. As Honolulu Civil Beat‘s information pageon PLDC notes:

The corporation has broad powers for entering into private partnerships and establishing its own governing objectives and policies. It also is tasked with identifying state lands under DLNR that are suitable for development. The Board of Land and Natural Resources must approve all land transfers.The corporation, with the approval of the governor, can also issue revenue bonds for constructing, acquiring and renovating public facilities, as well as for the acquisition of non-public lands.

Since its formation, the PLDC has become highly controversial, and the Hawaii Senate recently voted to repeal it. We moderated a panel on the issue at the Hawaii Land Use Conference in January, so the U.H. program will be a good update.

The panel will discuss three issues: the different perspectives on the PLDC issue itself, how the controversy over the PLDC reflects the tensions underlying the property rights regime in Hawaii, and (in an unrelated but pressing subject for law students) the speakers’ views on how to thrive in law school and the legal job opportunities after graduation.

Joining Mark on the panel are Professor Shelley Saxer (Pepperdine);Marti Townsend, Executive Director of the Outdoor Circle; and a panelist to be named later (perhaps a legislator involved in the issue). Stay tuned here for a follow up.

For more details on how to attend, contact Mark.



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Robert H. Thomas is one of the preeminent land use lawyers in Hawaii. He specializes in land use issues including regulatory takings, eminent domain, water rights, and voting rights cases. He has tried cases and appeals in Hawaii, California, and the federal courts. Robert received his LLM, with honors, from Columbia Law School where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and his JD from the University of Hawaii School of Law where he served as editor of the Law Review. Robert taught law at the University of Santa Clara School of Law, and was an exam grader and screener for the California Committee of Bar Examiners. He currently serves as the Chair of the Condemnation Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on State & Local Government Law. He is the Hawaii member of Owners’ Counsel of America, a national network of the most experienced eminent domain and property rights lawyers. Membership in OCA is by invitation only, and is limited to a single attorney from each state. Robert is also the Managing Attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation Hawaii Center, a non-profit legal foundation dedicated to protecting property rights and individual liberties. Reach him at He is also a frequent speaker on land use and eminent domain issues in Hawaii and nationwide. For a list of upcoming events and speaking engagements.