Emotional distress and First Amendment claims by Molokai veterans against Maui County will go to jury trial
Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi ordered yesterday in U.S. District Court that three additional claims of emotional distress and First Amendment rights violations from the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans against Maui County will be allowed to go forward to a trial by jury.
After the MVCV received its building permit in May for a new veterans center, four years after the original application was filed, Commander Larry Helm explained why the veterans planned to move forward with their lawsuit.
“Service delayed is service denied,” said Helm after District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi issued her order in April. The result of these delays, claims Helm, is that the $250,000 grant-in-aid issued by the Hawaii legislature four years ago will no longer cover the costs of building a modest veterans’ center along Wharf Road in Kaunakakai.
Before MVCV filed a proposed second amended complaint, Judge Kobayashi had ruled on April 28 that a civil suit against Maui County and Mayor Charmaine Tavares could go to trial on three claims. Two of the claims involved the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress on Helm by Tavares and the county. The third claim is a First Amendment complaint by all the veteran plaintiffs against Tavares and the County.
Yesterday, three additional allowable claims were added to these three initial claims. Judge Puglisi would not dismiss the claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress by all plaintiffs made against Tavares, Roy Silva and Mahina Martin. Both Martin and Silva were employed by the mayor’s office when they allegedly made threats against the veterans if they did not drop their public protest held on Maui July 1, 2010.
Also affirmed by the court were First Amendment claims against Mayor Tavares by all plaintiffs and intentional infliction of emotional distress claim by Helm against Mayor Tavares and the County.
Maui County did succeed in having two claims dismissed from the complaint. The veterans will not be able to sue Silva or Martin for intentionally violating their First Amendment rights. Also dropped will be the charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress claims by all the plaintiffs except Helm.
Helm has denied claims that he is looking for a big payday for the veterans. He said he is seeking justice for being, “abused, excused, refused and confused by Maui County and some of its official in the five-year process in acquiring a building permit to build a Veteran center.”
(Numerous stories on this issue have been published in The Molokai News. Click here to see the latest story and the other links related to this ongoing issue.)
In addition, MVCV attorney Suki Halevi has said that an equal protection complaint will be filed. This complaint involves the demand by the county for the veterans to replace the four-inch water line fronting their property. The veterans held off on this claim until now because of a pending appeal in front of the county Board of Water Supply, which will now be dropped. The appeal became unnecessary when the county changed its longstanding policy of requiring the Department of Water Supply to hold the final authority on permitting.
A jury trial has been set in this case for March 28, 2012, before Judge Kobayashi.