No native right to cockfight, judge rules
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
Native Hawaiians do not have a constitutional right to
engage in cockfighting, a Maui judge has ruled.
In an 11-page decision issued Aug. 31, 2nd Circuit
Court Judge Joel August rejected a lawsuit against
Maui County and the state by two Maui men who claimed
they are entitled to engage in cockfighting because
their Native Hawaiian ancestors had done so.
The state and all of its counties have laws
prohibiting cockfighting. However, the Hawai'i State
Constitution protects Native Hawaiian customary
traditions and practices, and Daniel Lealoha
Kahaikupuna and Frederick Ponce argued that
cockfighting should be included.
According to noted Native Hawaiian scholar and
historian David Malo, a form of cockfighting known as
"haka moa" was once "a very fashionable sport with the
The county moved to dismiss the suit. Deputy
Corporation Counsel Jane Lovell said cockfighting has
been illegal since at least 1884, during the reign of
King David Kalakaua.
August agreed with the county, saying that even though
Native Hawaiians may have engaged in cockfighting, it
was illegal when the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
Lovell said yesterday that neither Kahaikupuna nor
Ponce has been arrested for cockfighting.
It is not known whether the ruling will be appealed.
The plaintiffs and their attorney, James Richard
McCarty, could be reached for comment yesterday.