On the morning of December 11, 2019, three judges of the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals convened in the Supreme Court Courtroom in downtown Honolulu to hear oral arguments in an appeal in the case of State of Hawaii vs. Windyceslau D. Lorenzo, also known as Kamehameha VI.
Yes, you read that right.
Since at least the early 1990s, Lorenzo has claimed to be “His Majesty Kamehameha VI, King of the Hawaiian Islands, seventh Great Grandson of Kamehameha I, duly recognized and confirmed by the Alii Nui Konohiki Council of Chiefs under the Constitution of 1840, in the Kingdom of Hawaii.”
Of course, despite the pretensions, he’s only one of many claimants competing to speak for a kingdom that in hard reality ceased to exist with the overthrow in 1893.
In 2013, Lorenzo filed warranty deeds in the Bureau of Conveyances transferring title to three parcels of Waimanalo land, a total of approximately 335 acres, to his wife. The source of Lorenzo’s ownership of the property was identified as an earlier 1998 deed:
Deed of Rose P. Lukela, “Grantor”, to Windyceslau Donato Lorenzo, dated August 26, 1998 and recorded at the Bureau of Conveyances as Document No. 98-126382, conveying all claims of the grantor in and to the lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Lukela was also known as Rose P. Lorenzo. The basis of Lukela’s claim of ownership in the Waimanalo properties was not identified.
The state later challenged the 1998 deed in court and succeeded in having declared frivolous. It was expunged from the state’s records.
The state then challenged Lorenzo’s 2013 deeds, which were based on the deed that had already been throw out. Following a June 2015 hearing before Judge Victoria Crandall, title was found to be properly vested in the State of Hawaii. The three deeds were found to be frivolous and ordered to be expunged from the state’s land title records. In addition, Lorenzo was fined $5,000, and was enjoined from filing any further related deeds without prior authorization from the court.
Lorenzo then filed an appeal to the Intermediate Court seeking to reverse Crandall’s ruling.
Lorenzo was represented in this appeal by Williamson Chang, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s William S Richardson School of Law, who has become a widely quoted advocate of the theory that Hawaii was never legally annexed by the United States, one result being that therefore post-Kingdom land titles granted under the authority of the territory and state are invalid.
Chang had touted his opening brief in the appeal for its presentation of evidence of “the failure of the United States to acquire Hawaii….”
The judges of the Intermediate Court initially said oral arguments would not be held in the case, but Chang strongly objected. In a legal motion filed on September 30, 2019, Chang pressed the court to reinstate oral arguments because there were, in his words, “numerous issues that had not been covered.” Chang said he was prepared to address the legislative intent of the 1959 Admissions Act by which Hawaii became a state, as well as details of the Congressional debate over annexation in 1898.
In response to Chang’s motion, the court reversed itself, and on November 14 issued a notice setting the oral arguments for 10 a.m. on December 11. The stage was set for Chang to expound his theories.
But when the case was called, neither Williamson Chang or his client, Windyceslau D. “Kamehameha VI” Lorenzo, responded. Neither was present for the hearing that had been scheduled specifically at Chang’s request.
Less than two weeks later, the three-judge panel issued a summary disposition order rejecting each of the arguments raised by Chang and dismissing Lorenzo’s appeal.
The court found that the idea “that the 1898 Joint Resolution did not actually convey the islands of Hawaii to the United States, has been considered and rejected by the Hawaii Supreme Court,” citing the recent decision In re Conservation Dist. Use Application HA-3568.
In that case, the Hawaii Supreme Court explicitly rejected Williamson Chang’s position that annexation was faulty because it was not accomplished through a treaty of annexation.
Citing relevant cases, the court held: “The United States Supreme Court has thus indicated that the process by which Hawaii was incorporated into the United States was lawful and binding, and we are bound by this determination.”
And as to the ownership of the Waimanalo parcels that were the subject of Lorenzo’s deeds, the court noted the history of the properties prepared by E. Mahoe Collins, the state’s abstractor, which traced the title back to the Great Mahele. The court noted that the history had not been challenged.
“Collins did not find any transfers or conveyances made by the State or its predecessors to Lorenzo or Rose P. Lukela (aka Rose P. Lorenzo), from whom Lorenzo claims he received transfer of the Parcels,” the court wrote in its decision. “Other than Lorenzo’s argument that the 1898 Joint Resolution failed to transfer the lands of Hawaii to the United States, which has been rejected by the Hawaii Supreme Court…he does not assert any challenge to Collins’s affidavit.”
Williamson Chang was ordered to pay $100 for his failure to appear for the December 11, 2019 oral arguments without good cause.