(ABOVE VIDEO) Report on the Feb. 4 meeting of the Hawaii County Council. Video from the county livestream. Voice of Sherry Bracken.
- The Hawaii County Council voted to approve a request to hire Earthjustice as special counsel in their appeal of a court ruling overturning a Big Island ban on genetically engineered crops.
- Attorney Margery Bronster warned the council that their decision could be illegal. Bronster represents the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation with the county.
HILO, Hawaii – Hawaii County lawyers are going to get some outside help in their fight to keep new genetically engineered crops off the Big Island.
On Wednesday, county council members decided to accept the help of the non-profit Earthjustice, a public interest law organization dedicated to environmental issues. Earthjustice has a lot of experience litigating issues related to GMOs. The council is only expected to cover the costs of the environmental lawyers, not to exceed $10,000.
Communication 9.1 was slated for executive session, but the public still had a chance to weigh-in.
On November 26, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled in favor of a group of plaintiffs seeking to invalidate Hawaii County Ordinance 13-121, a law passed in 2013 restricting the cultivation of new Genetically Modified Organisms on Hawaii Island.
On December 17, the Council voted to appeal. Now, Paul Achitoff, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s mid-Pacific regional office, is offering to help the county going forward.
Communication 9.1 was slated for executive session, but the public still had a chance to weigh-in, testifying from around the island via videoconference. Many of those urging the council to accept the assistance from Earthjustice were the same people who supported the GMO ban in 2013.
There were a few who came to speak out against the proposal, and one testifier in particular raised eyebrows. Attorney Margery Bronster represents the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association and other agriculture and biotechnology groups in the ongoing litigation with the county.
“Its questionable, ethically, for the attorney on the opposing side on to contact directly the clients” said Kohala councilwoman Margaret Wille, “but I’m not objecting to it I think it’s best to just go ahead.” Wille authored the GMO ban Bill 113 which was later nullified in court.
“I am NOT here to talk about the merits of the action, or the merits of the appeal,” Bronster told the council, “but solely the issue before you today. Which is whether or not the county should delegate its representation to Earthjustice and a 501 c3 which is the Center for Food Safety. I would submit to you that the law does not allow it.”
The council voted 6 to 3 to hire Earthjustice as special counsel. Councilmembers Chung, David, Eoff, Poindexter, Wille, and Kanuha voted aye. The noes came from councilmembers Ilagan, Paleka and Onishi.