Federal Judge to Review Arguments in Rail Lawsuit

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HonoluluTraffic.com and seven other plaintiffs will take their case to U.S. District Court on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to ask Ninth Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima to grant an injunction against the city to stop the controversial $5.2 billion steel rail project from moving forward.

The plaintiffs, who also include former Gov. Ben Cayetano, retired Judge Walter Heen, University of Law Professor Randall Roth, Dr. Michael Uechi, Outdoor Circle, Small Business Hawaii Foundation, and Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, won their lawsuit filed in 2011 on November 1, 2012, on three of 23 counts.


On Wednesday, Tashima could decide to stop the project all together, at least until the city corrects the problems that violate federal law.

He could order the city to redo much of its paperwork, which could delay the project and add to its cost substantially.

Or he could let the city continue preparing for the rail project while redoing the portions of the rail project or Environmental Impact Statement that violate federal law.

Roth said the judge has the ability to mold his decision like “clay”, rather than act within certain guidelines.

Honolulu Traffic’s attorney, Nicholas Yost, a partner in California-based SNR Denton, will be in court. He fell ill just before the oral arguments in the case, and was hospitalized, and had to send a replacement to present oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ behalf.

That was a major setback for the plaintiffs, who retained Yost last year because he is the nation’s top expert in environmental law.

Cliff Slater, founder of HonoluluTraffic.com and a retired businessman, said “We are not expecting Judge Tashima to announce a ruling at the hearing; it will most likely come early in the year.”

“As we have been saying since the beginning of this case, after Judge Tashima rules, either we, or the City/FTA, will appeal the result to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We hope that the matter will be finally settled during the first half of next year.”