The TMT Contested Case Proceeds

We have been through weeks of the TMT permit contested case hearings at this point, with no end in sight. I have often kept the live feed in the corner of my computer screen through the day.

The Thirty Meter Telescope
An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated.
Many of the petitioner’s efforts are well prepared and professional, particularly those from Mauna Kea Anaina Hou. Other are less so, to be expected when the participants are not experienced in legal proceedings.

Other petitioners seem unable or unwilling to understand repeated instructions from the hearing officer. At least most of the grandstanding has settled down as it became apparent that it would not be tolerated in the hearing room and that Judge Amano would evict those who repeatedly disrupted proceedings.

It is clear that one of the petitioner’s basic strategies has been to slow the proceedings as much as possible, to run the clock. So many of the questions are pointless, as if they simply read through the submitted testimony composing random questions to any semi-interesting point. This goes along with enormous witness lists, and voluminous filings of documents.

…the delays have been caused, in part, by duplicative and repetitive questions, attempts by cross-examiners to present their own testimony, and cross-examiners trying to argue with the witnesses or the Hearing Officer. – Case document 415, University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s Opposition to Temple of Lono’s Motion

In response to this obvious effort Judge Amano imposed 30 minute time limits on cross examinations, drawing heated complaints and a flurry of motions from petitioners. The result has been far more focused questioning and more reasonable amounts of time spent on the stand for witnesses. The 30 minute time limit has not been absolute, Judge Amano has been reasonable in allowing more time when it seemed appropriate.

Indeed, the tolerance and patience Judge Amano has demonstrated has been stunning. A career spent on the bench has obviously prepared her for just about anything that might occur in a courtroom, or a hearing room in this case. She has patiently and repeatedly explained the rules to participants, she has offered suggestions as to how they might solve their issues within the legal framework as they struggle with the system.

TMT Protest in Waimea
A protest against TMT in Waimea, May 27, 2015
In response petitioners have complained bitterly about a biased proceeding. There are continued claims of oppression or of duress, of rights being violated. This despite endless allowances from Judge Amano for leniency to late filings or misunderstood court procedure. These complaints have extended in submitting a claim of such accusations to the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

In comedic moments we have heard suggestions of “laser cannon”, of “tracking intraterrestrial craft” and similar claims. We have learned that people born in California are not US citizens as they were not born in one of the original 13 colonies. Leading to some informative, if ultimately irrelevant, readings in US history.

Another surprise is the amount of ignorance among telescope opposition to the basic status of astronomy on the summit. This includes not knowing the names of the telescopes, the roles of the telescopes, or the science done atop the summit. Given that this information is widely available it represents a willful ignorance among some telescope opponents far worse than what they accuse telescope supporters of in ignorance of Hawaiian culture.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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