Property Tax, Maui Timeshare Properties
Ocean Resorts and Ocean Resorts North, Maui, Hawai’i, Peter Bagatelos, and Vic Henry, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the County of Maui’s (“COM”) real property tax scheme, which taxed time share property owners more than 60% higher than any other real property taxpayer, won a string of rulings in the Maui Circuit Court over the COM. The trial court ruled that the COM’s reassessment of the time share properties that had been assessed and paid property taxes in a timely manner could not be reassessed 10 years after the fact as if the properties had been “omitted” from the tax rolls. The court further agreed with Lead Counsel Robert Klein that the reassessment scheme violated the constitutional and statutory rights of the tax payers because the county lawyers immersed themselves in the taxing function of the county as a litigation ploy, and in doing so, exposed the county to repayment of the reassessment, attorney's fees, interest, costs, and damages. In its latest rulings, the trial court concluded that the entire tax classification for time share properties was illegal inasmuch as the COM failed to address the issue of “use” in classifying time share properties in a tax classification separate from the hotel resort classification as required by the Maui County ordinances.
Patent and Trademark
As lead counsel for VDF Futureceuticals (“VDF”) in its lawsuit against KonaRed, Robert Klein helped obtain an agreement with KonaRed to pay fees in the form of stock to VDF for patent and trademark rights. KonaRed was also required to purchase its raw materials from VDF beginning in 2017, according to the settlement. The lawsuit alleged that KonaRed infringed on three patents held by VDF and violated VDF's trademark for "Coffeeberry". KonaRed's attempt to invalidate VDF's patents through the U. S. Trademark and Patent Office failed, leading to the settlement.
Land Use (Waikiki Seawall)
In August 2017, the Hawai’i Supreme Court issued a final decision in Gold Coast Neighborhood Association (“GCNA”) v. State of Hawai’i (“State”) finding that the GCNA was the prevailing party and ordering the State to accept an easement by implication (and concomitant legal responsibility) over and across the Waikiki seawall fronting several condominiums and cooperative apartments on the “Gold Coast” of Waikiki Beach. Former Hawai’i Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert G. Klein, who argued the appeal, appeared on behalf the GCNA throughout the 13-year history of the case that began with a favorable judgment after trial in the State Circuit Court, followed by a first-tier appeal to the State Intermediate Court of Appeals. This ruling means that the State, and not the private landowners abutting the Seawall, have the obligation to repair and maintain the Seawall easement and be legally liable for damages that might arise. The GCNA and its member organizations have never restricted public access along the seawall in order for the public to more easily reach famed offshore surfing spots, fishing grounds, and other recreational activities.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trust Revenues
In an appeal to the Hawai’i Supreme Court argued by former Hawai’i Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Klein, The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (“OHA”) won a significant victory, in which the Court decided that revenues derived from the ceded lands trust, created under the federal Admissions Act, could be used by the Trustees of OHA in their discretion for the benefit of all Hawaiians regardless of blood quantum. This case follows on an earlier 9th Circuit Court ruling that upheld the Trustees’ discretionary use of ceded lands revenues under federal law.
Timeshare Classification; Destination Clubs
On appeal to the State Intermediate Court of Appeals (“ICA”), Lead Counsel Robert G. Klein represented appellee Exclusive Resorts (“ER”), a company that owns and operates a high-end destination club at Pauoa Beach on the Big Island of Hawai’i, in a lawsuit that alleged ER violated state registration laws by operating as an unregistered “timeshare organization”. The lawsuit sought injunctive relief that would have had serious ramifications for ER. The ICA rejected appellants’ claims and ruled in favor of ER on the time share issue. The case is the first under Hawai’i law to distinguish timeshare operations from destination clubs and bodes well for other destination clubs seeking to do business in Hawaii.
Native Hawaiian Rights, Public Land Trust
Justice Robert Klein (former Associate Justice, Hawai’i Supreme Court) has served for 14 years as Board Counsel for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs ("OHA"), a state agency charged with advocating for the rights of Native Hawaiians under state and federal law. In this capacity, he has successfully defended OHA and other Hawaiian groups against 14th Amendment challenges in federal court that would render both the Hawaiian Homelands Trust and the Public Lands Trust unconstitutional. He has also appeared before Hawaii state courts advocating for unpaid ceded lands revenue to be paid by the state to OHA (OHA v. State, 110 Hawaii 338, 133 P.3d 767 (2006)) and has been lead counsel in several major cases before the U. S. District Court for the District of Hawaii and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in cases such as Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2003); Arakaki v. Lingle, 423 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2005); Arakaki v. Lingle, 477 F.3d 1048 (9th Cir. 2007); Day v. Apoliona, 496 F.3d 1027 (9th Cir. 2007); Day v. Apoliona, 616 F.3d 918 (9th Cir. 2010); and Akina et.al v. State of Hawai’i et. al. (U.S.D.C. 2015). In addition to advocacy through litigation, Mr. Klein has worked with Hawaii's congressional delegation on legislation that would afford Native Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that enjoyed by Alaskan natives and Native American nations.
Constitutional Law Expertise
Hawai’i’s constitutional law is a unique blend of western common law concepts and traditional Hawaiian customary law and practices. As such, this body of law can be complex and confusing. Few firms offer the advantage of having a former Associate Justice of the Hawai’i Supreme Court to navigate issues that arise in this practice area. Over his eight-year term on the Hawai’i Supreme Court, Robert Klein authored pivotal decisions interpreting Hawai’i's constitution, and he offers valuable insight into the highest reaches of the State court system. His expertise ensures that his clients have the greatest opportunity to achieve their objectives.
Robert Klein and Kurt Klein teamed with mainland legal counsel to represent the local Carpenter’s Union in a suit by a union member that challenged the executive hierarchy of the union. The challenger invoked the jurisdiction of the federal district court and the state courts before the case was dismissed with the executive team still intact.
Lead counsel Robert Klein settled a major personal injury lawsuit against an automobile manufacturer based on a products liability theory due to life-threatening burns suffered by a service man whose car burst in to flames and engulfed him, causing life-threatening injuries resulting in his honorable discharge from the military. The seven figure settlement was paid by the automobile manufacturer as well as the bar that served him alcohol on the night in question. Mr. Klein was able to negotiate the insurance lien to a very reasonable amount.
After suffering serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury when he was struck while walking in a marked crosswalk, Plaintiff turned to Robert Klein and Kurt Klein to obtain financial recovery for damages. The Kleins were able to obtain a high six figure settlement from the opposing driver’s insurance companies. In addition, Medicare reduced its lien to a fair settlement amount.
COMMUNITY ACCESS CHANNEL MIGRATION
Lead counsel Robert Klein and Kurt Klein helped convince the local cable company to defer “channel migration” of local community access television stations, in particular “O’lelo” , to “digital Siberia” by combining a lawsuit resulting in a temporary restraining order against the cable company and an Order from the cable television regulatory agency that prevented “channel migration.” O’lelo and the public were well-served by this combination of legal and political actions.
State general excise tax
Robert Klein, Kurt Klein, and David Robyak negotiated settlement of a delinquent general excise tax (“GET”) claim made by the State of Hawai‘i Department of Taxation against a former small business owner who was misled by a tax preparer’s negligent advice. Initially fearing he would need to sell his home, the client ultimately paid a fraction of the GET assessment to resolve it, after Klein Law Group marshalled compelling evidence of the preparer’s misinterpretation of the law and demonstrated the hardship full collection would have inflicted. Klein Law Group is now pursuing various related claims against the tax preparer.
Robert Klein, Kurt Klein, and David Robyak achieved fair compensation for a client seriously injured when a large commercial vehicle struck him from behind at full speed while he was stopped in heavy traffic on the H1. The insurer for the negligent driver’s employer eventually conceded to a six-figure settlement. Klein Law Group also negotiated significant reduction of the reimbursement claim made by the client’s private health insurer.
dissolution of temporary restraining order
Kurt Klein and David Robyak successfully defended in district court a woman falsely and fantastically accused by a neighbor of threatening and plotting against her. Not only was a permanent injunction denied and the TRO dissolved, but Robyak and Klein successfully negotiated with the client’s landlord to ensure the troubled neighbor was relocated to another building in their shared apartment complex, thus preventing further harassment of the client.