Robert H. Thomas
Robert H. Thomas is a director with Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert in Honolulu, Hawaii. He specializes in property and land use issues including eminent domain, inverse condemnation, regulatory takings, property rights, water rights, and voting rights. He has tried cases and appeals in Hawaii, California, and the federal courts, including the Court of Federal Claims. On behalf of landowners in Hawaii and nationwide, Robert appears as counsel for amici curiae (“friends of the court”) before state appellate courts, state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robert serves as the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on State & Local Government Law. He is the Managing Attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Hawaii Center, a public interest legal foundation dedicated to defending private property rights and individual freedom. He has also been appointed by William & Mary Law School to the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Advisory Board and serves as a Planning Co-Chair and Faculty Member of one of the American Law Institute’s longest running legal education programs on eminent domain and land valuation litigation. Robert is frequently invited to speak on land use and eminent domain issues in Hawaii and across the country and regularly publishes scholarly papers and articles on this area of the law. He authors a widely-read blog on land use, property, and takings law, inversecondemnation.com, and his commentary on property rights issues is often quoted in the media.
Significant Eminent Domain and Property Rights Representations and Reported Decisions
A complete list of reported cases in which Robert has been involved, is available here.
- Robert has filed briefs amicus curiae on behalf of the Owners’ Counsel of America in support of property owners in a number of property rights cases reviewed by the United States Supreme Court including: Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, 572 U.S. ___ (2014), Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), Arkansas Game & Fish Comm’n v. U.S., 568 U. S. ____ (2012), and Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dep’t of Environmental Protection, 998 So. 2d 1102 (2010). He has also co-authored amicus briefs on behalf of Owners’ Counsel of America in support of landowners in eminent domain cases before various state supreme courts.
- County of Kauai ex rel. Nakazawa v. Baptiste, 115 Haw. 15, 165 P.3d 916 (2007) (represented homeowners in appeal of government challenge to validity of county charter capping real property taxes for resident homeowners).
- Maunalua Beach Ohana 28 v. State of Hawaii (appeal pending in the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals) (represent amicus supporting property owners who claim statute effected a regulatory taking of their shoreline property).
- Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) (amicus curiae brief on the “public use” requirement in eminent domain).
- Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 544 U.S. 528 (2005) (amicus curiae brief on the standards for regulatory takings).
- Maui Tomorrow v. State of Hawaii, 110 Haw. 234, 131 P.3d 517 (2006) (represented Maui farmers in challenge to allocation of fresh water on Maui, and related appeal for attorneys fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988).
- Leslie v. County of Hawaii, 109 Haw. 384, 126 P.3d 1071 (2006) (amicus curiae brief regarding proper scope of coastal zone regulations).
- Alameda Gateway, Ltd. v. United States, 45 Fed. Cl. 757 (1999) (represented property owner in Tucker Act case seeking just compensation for inverse condemnation of submerged and riparian property adjacent to the Oakland Inner Harbor – one of the few cases where a court has upheld an owner’s claim to compensation for taking of navigable waters).
- United States v. Alameda Gateway, Ltd., 213 F.3d 1161(9th Cir. 2000) petition for cert. withdrawn due to settlement (Aug. 2000) (companion case to above; represented property owner on appeal in suit brought by Corps of Engineers seeking reimbursement of costs from property owner).
- Maunalua Associates, Inc., fka Bedford Properties, Inc. v. City & County of Honolulu, No. 89-3539-11 (Haw., First Cir. 2002) (represented property owner in 15+ year, $100 million land use litigation seeking just compensation for downzoning and regulatory taking of vested development permit).
- Boone v. United States, 725 F. Supp. 1509 (D. Haw. 1989) and 743 F. Supp. 1367 (D. Haw. 1989), aff’d, 944 F.2d 1489 (9th Cir. 1991) (trial and appeal protecting private navigable waters under inverse condemnation theory).
- Kaiser Hawaii Kai Dev. Co. v. City & County of Honolulu, 70 Haw. 480, 777 P.2d 244 (Haw. 1989) (represented property owner in a case invalidating voter initiative as a means of enacting land use legislation in Hawaii).
- Sandy Beach Defense Fund v. City & County of Honolulu, 773 P.2d 250 (Haw. 1989) (defended coastal development permit from due process and equal protection challenges in Hawaii state courts and satellite litigation in Honolulu Zoning Board of Appeals).
- Lum Yip Kee, Ltd. v. City & County of Honolulu, 767 P.2d 244 (Haw. 1989) (amicus curiae brief challenging initiative as method of enacting zoning ordinances in Honolulu).
Below is a select list of the many presentations Robert has recently given on land use and eminent domain. For a complete listing, including upcoming events and speaking engagements, visit here.
- American Law Institute: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Eminent Domain National Law Update,” February 2015, San Francisco, CA.
- American Law Institute: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Challenging the Take,” February 2015, San Francisco, CA.
- American Law Institute: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “A Full and Perfect Equivalent for Just Compensation: The Historical Context and Practice,” January 2014, New Orleans, LA.
- American Law Institute: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Condemning Underwater Mortgages,” January 2013, Miami Beach, FL.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “The Role of Hawaii’s Unique Property Law in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Takings Cases,” January 2012, San Diego, CA.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “The “Social” Lawyer: New Media Strategies for Marketing Your Eminent Domain Practice,” February 2011, Coral Gables, FL.
- American Law Institute-American Bar Association: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, “Winning Arguments in Challenging the Right To Take and Public Use, February 2010, Scottsdale, AZ.
Published Articles and Papers
Robert regularly publishes scholarly and practical articles on property rights and takings law and his most recent publications include those listed below. For a full list, please visit here.
- The Law of Eminent Domain – A Fifty State Survey (Hawaii chapter), ABA Section on Litigation, Committee on Condemnation, Zoning & Land Use, (2012)
- Eminent Domain – A Handbook of Condemnation Law (2011) (chapters on Prelitigation Process and Flooding and Erosion)
- Of Woodchucks and Prune Yards: A View of Judicial Takings From the Trenches, 35 Vt. L. Rev. 437 (2010) (with Mark M. Murakami and Tred Eyerly)
- Recent Developments in Challenging the Right to Take in Eminent Domain, 42 Urban Lawyer 693 (2010)
- At the Cutting Edge 2009: Land Use Law from The Urban Lawyer, 79–94 (2010 Dwight H. Merriam, ed.) (Recent Developments in Public Use and Pretext in Eminent Domain)
- Drawing a Line in the Sand: Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dep’t of Envtl. Protection, 33 State & Local Law News 8 (ABA Section of State & Local Gov’t Law, Winter 2010)
- Recent Developments in Public Use and Pretext in Eminent Domain, 41 Urban Lawyer 563 (2009)
- The Ninth Circuit Rediscovers Substantive Due Process In Land Use Cases, 31 Zoning & Planning Law Report 11, (Dec. 2008).
Bar Admissions and Memberships
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Court of Appeals (Ninth and Federal Circuits)
- U.S. District Court (Hawaii and Northern District of California)
- U.S. Court of Federal Claims, U.S. Tax Court
- American Bar Association
- Hawaii Bar Association
- California Bar Association
- ABA State and Local Government Section – Chair, Condemnation Law Committee
- ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers
- ABA Litigation Section (Hawaii Editor, Case Notes – Committee on Condemnation, Zoning & Land Use)
- Co-Chair and Faculty, American Law Institute-Continuing Legal Education: Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Litigation Course of Study
- Former Adjunct Professor, University of Santa Clara School of Law
- Board of Directors, Owners’ Counsel of America (2012-2015)