Family Dispute Over Kuleana Land on Kauaʻi Back in Court

Jun 6, 2019

Kuleana land within Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's estate in Pila'a, Kaua'i, is caught up in a family dispute.
Credit Save Rapozo Kuleana Legacy

A Kauaʻi family dispute over kuleana land within Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s estate continues today in court. In a lawsuit filed in state circuit court, one faction of the Rapozo family is alleging the other committed fraud and deceit leading up to the forced land auction. The court will rule today on whether the case can proceed.

Earlier this week, one branch of Kauaʻi’s Rapozo family outbid the other to secure sole ownership of four kuleana parcels once owned by a mutual ancestor. Now, the branch of the family that walked away empty handed is fighting the matter in civil court.

“We hope that will be the process of officially having a court authorize us to do discovery on what may be deep underlying fraud,” says Wayne Rapozo.

Rapozo and several members of his extended family are taking their distant cousin Carlos Andrade to court.

Andrade couldn’t be reached for comment. But more than two years ago, he filed a quiet title lawsuit against family members. The retired UH professor bid more than $2 million to acquire the family land in Pīlaʻa. On Tuesday, his bid was approved by the court.  

ʻĀlika Guerrero, a Rapozo family member was unhappy with the result.

“Ua hōʻāʻo mākou e kūʻai i nā ʻāina a pau akā ua pīholo. Akā i loko o kēia pīholo, ua makemake e hōʻike i ko mākou hāʻawi pio ʻole.”

He says despite his faction of the family’s loss at auction, the attempt to bid at all proves that they aren’t giving up.

Andrade has said in the past that he is trying to preserve the land he’s cared for and paid taxes on for decades. He says he wants to pass the property on to his children.

Healani Sonoda-Pale, head of the Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Political Action Committee, has been watching the case and worries it may set a precedent that could hurt native Hawaiians.

“We may see more of this happening in Hawai’i and that’s my concern here,” says Sonoda-Pale.

“He paio kēia no ka ʻohana Rapozo akā he paio kēia no ka lāhui Hawaiʻi. Lana ka manaʻo i loko o ko mākou lanakila, lanakila ʻole, hiki i kekahi ʻohana ke ʻike i kekahi ala e lanakila ai.”

Guerrero says this fight may be for the Rapozo family but really it’s for all native Hawaiians. Win or lose, he hopes another family can learn from this and find a way to prevail.

UPDATE (6/7/19 at 9:30am):  The court hearing on the civil case was rescheduled for next Thursday, June 13, 2019, at 1pm. The hearing was rescheduled because the defendant, Carlos Andrade, and his lawyer Harvey Cohen did not show up.