Athiests Attack Hawai’i Churches using School Property

Listen to an interview with local ADF attorney, Jim Hochberg (above).

Athiests Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber filed a False Claims Act law suit against the churches claiming the rental being paid for use of public school facilities was not the amount required by law and was not the proper amount based on the number of hours of actual use.  The churches asked the court to dismiss the claim because neither Mitch Kahle nor Holly Huber qualified as a “whistle blower” to use the statute on which they based their claims because they are not “insiders” with information that is not publicly available.  The trial court denied the motion.  The questions on appeal relate to whether or not the trial judge was correct.  Specifically those questions are:

  1. The public disclosure bar of H.R.S. § 661-31 as amended in 2012 states that a court “shall dismiss an action or claim under this part” if certain requirements are present.  Is this mandatory language a jurisdictional bar or is it an affirmative defense?
  2. The Hawai’i Legislature amended the public disclosure bar of H.R.S. § 661-31 in 2012, specifically stating that the amendments should be applied prospectively.  Plaintiffs allege false claims in transactions by the Defendants beginning in 2007. See e.g. First Amended Complaint, Doc. 26, ROA 257 at ¶45.  Does the amendment language apply to transactions prior to the 2012 amendment?
  3. The material that forms the basis of Relators’ allegations of false claims comes entirely from public records requests and public websites. Is Relators’ action foreclosed by the public disclosure bar of H.R.S. § 661-31(b) that prohibits allegations or transactions substantially the same as those disclosed in state reports or the news media?
  4. Do Relators meet the definition of an “original source” of information under the public disclosure bar when they do not have direct and independent knowledge that forms the basis or the catalyst for publicly disclosed information, and when they do not have any information that is independent of and that materially adds to the information already publicly disclosed in public records requests and public websites?

Download handout SchoolCase.