On February 28, 2000, the Supreme Court of Hawaii released a favorable opinion in the case of Association of Apartment Owners of Maalaea Kai v. Stillson, in which the Community Associations Institute (CAI), through its Hawaii Chapter, had filed an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief.
The case involved Maalaea Kai, a leasehold condominium where all members were lessees under a long-term lease, and the affirmative vote of more than 75 percent of the Maalaea Kai members to purchase the leased fee interest in the property. The association's purchase of the whole leased fee interest better enabled individual members to, in turn, voluntarily purchase their apartments from the association to become homeowners. Mr. Stillson, a lessee, filed suit against Maalaea Kai, charging that a unanimous vote of all owners was necessary to approve the purchase.
CAI's amicus curiae brief was filed in June 1999 after Maalaea Kai appealed an unfavorable circuit court ruling to the Hawaii Supreme Court. The lower court's decision relied on an opinion in an earlier case that the consent of all affected members is required when a leased fee interest purchase "enlarges" the common elements. CAI's brief argued that Hawaii law did not require a unanimous vote of Maalaea Kai members since the purchase did not alter individual members' percentage interest in the common elements.
"This opinion is important for the hundreds of leasehold condominium associations in the State of Hawaii," said Ronald L. Perl, Esq., chair of CAI's Government & Public Affairs Counsel and a member of CAI's Amicus Curiae Advisory Group. "It means many individuals who currently aspire to homeownership will continue to have an important means to attain that goal at the most favorable prices."
CAI amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, one aspect of CAI's overall government and public affairs efforts, are filed in federal or state cases that pose questions of significant importance in community association law. CAI's brief in this case was prepared by Hawaii attorneys Joyce Y. Neeley, Esq., Philip L. Lahne, Esq., and Richard H. Thomason, Esq.
The Community Associations Institute is a nonprofit association created in 1973 to educate and represent the nation's 205,000 community associations—condominium associations, homeowner associations and cooperatives. CAI members include homeowners, associations and related professionals and service providers.