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Rice v. Cayetano

United States Supreme Court
528 U.S. 495 (2000)


The State of Hawaii (defendant) created a state agency known as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to administer lands and benefits designated for native Hawaiians. Hawaiians were defined as those individuals who were the descendants of people inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. A board of nine trustees governed the OHA and were chosen in statewide elections. Under the Hawaii Constitution, only citizens of Hawaii who were considered Hawaiians were permitted to vote for the OHA’s trustees. Mr. Rice (plaintiff) was a citizen of Hawaii who was not of Hawaiian ancestry. Rice sued the state because the Hawaiian Constitution barred him from voting in the election for the OHA trustees. Rice argued that this restriction violated the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The state argued that the special treatment provided to Hawaiians under this provision was similar to the special treatment afforded to Indian tribes by Congress and should thus be permitted. The district court granted summary judgment to the state, and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Breyer, J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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