Hawaii v. Gordon

LOCATION: Formerly S. H. Kress and Co.

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 373 US 57 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 15, 1963
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Hawaii v. Gordon

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 15, 1963 in Hawaii v. Gordon

Earl Warren:

Hawaii, Plaintiff versus Kermit Gordon.

Attorney General Kobayashi.

Bert T. Kobayashi:

Mr. Chief Justice, may I please the Court.

This is an original action brought in this Court by the State of Hawaii against David Bell former Director of Bureau of Budget for whom Kermit Gordon the new Director has been substituted.

The Budget Director is charged with the responsibility of administering certain provisions of the Hawaii Statehood Act.

These are the provisions setting up a program for the review of federal need for retained lands and properties in the State of Hawaii and for the conveyance of surplus, unneeded land according to the state.

This Court has granted all motion, full need to file complaint in this case.

This case is now before the Court on cross- motion with judgment on the pleadings filed by both parties.

We believe that the case is right for a decision on those cross motions.

The immediate practical issue here involves four housing projects, which constitutes a major part of the Hawaii public housing.

The military department who controls the land in question have certified that these lands are surplus of the military need.

If our interpretation of the Hawaii Statehood Act is correct then these lands will be conveyed to the state without being placed under auction block to the highest bidder.

To explain the basis of our claim, it is necessary to go back briefly into Hawaiian history.

Hawaii was once a separate independent nation, when it was annexed by the United States in 1898, the United States took without compensation, without payment of compensation, title to all the publicly owned land in the Republic of Hawaii.

These lands were quite expensive, approximately over 44% of the entire land area of the territory.

The legal title to these extensive lands very largely remained in the United States until we were granted statehood in 1959.

We have what the Statehood Act called the public land, sometimes called ceded land.

They are other two types of land involved in this case.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Bert T. Kobayashi:

Justice Goldberg initially 1,773,000 acres of land out of a total land area of 4 million acres of land in Hawaii were ceded to the United States.

Subsequent to 1898 and up to 1959 most of the ceded land has been returned to the state.

And ceded lands are lands that have been originally owned by the state.

Presently approximately 400,000 acres of land are being held as ceded land by the United States, and also presently approximately 30,000 acres of land, which is the called the Federal after-acquired land are being held by the United States.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

Is there any quarrel General over the 400,000 acres of ceded land?

Bert T. Kobayashi:

In issue here, no.

Arthur J. Goldberg:


Bert T. Kobayashi:

It's presently however being processed through the special provision in the Hawaii Statehood Act.

Whatever ceded land United States decides that it does not need, then State of Hawaii could receive, but if the Federal government decides it needs it, we still cannot get it sir.

Potter Stewart:


There is no dispute as to the meaning of the Statehood Act with respect to that land.