Forcibly Separated 95-Year-Old 442nd Veteran and His Wife, 89, Sue Hawai`i State Governor David Ige
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cades Schutte files federal lawsuit on behalf of Noboru and Elaine Kawamoto to overturn unconstitutional laws that have prevented the Kawamotos from living in the same nursing care facility since August 2014
HONOLULU, HAWAII (June 30, 2016) – Law firm Cades Schutte LLP has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Noboru and Elaine Kawamoto against Governor David Ige, Hawai`i State Director of Health Virginia Pressler, and state Human Services Director Rachel Wong for enforcing laws that have forced the Kawamotos to live in separate nursing care facilities. The lawsuit seeks to have those laws declared unconstitutional.
“My father fought for our country during World War II, and now he is fighting again for the right to live with my mother during the final years of their lives,” said Norman Kawamoto. “Not only is it unconstitutional that he and my mother are separated now—after decades of living together as loving spouses, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents— it’s heartbreaking and cruel.”
Hawai`i state law limits community care foster family homes, which are two- or three-bed nursing facilities that provide 24-hour care to resident patients, to just one non-Medicaid patient per home. This means that non-Medicaid couples who require the services offered by community care foster family homes cannot live together. Many such elderly spouses will be permanently separated because their physical or mental frailties require constant care and render them unable to visit their spouses without great hardship. Although the intent of the law is to protect the supply of Medicaid beds in community care foster family homes, the State currently has a surplus of several hundred such beds in those homes.
Noboru and Elaine Kawamoto are victims of that state law. 95-year-old Noboru, a World War II Japanese-American veteran and member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and his 89-year-old wife, Elaine, have been married for 68 years. In August 2014, health problems forced Elaine into nursing care and Noboru into a hospital. After his hospital stay, Noboru was compelled to enter a community care foster home, which was the only nearby nursing facility equipped to take him. Because he and Elaine are not Medicaid patients, state law prevented Elaine from entering with Noboru. With the couple forced to live separately, the Kawamotos have only been able to see each other for brief visits every few weeks. After 68 years of marriage, they have not been allowed to spend a single night together under the same roof for nearly 2 years.
“It’s outrageous,” said Cades Schutte partner Jeffrey S. Portnoy. “Here we have a husband wife who, after decades together, suddenly can’t live with each other. This is a very important issue in Hawai`i because we take pride in our close knit families and communities. It shouldn’t be that way, and we hope to have this statute declared unconstitutional, so we can reunite Noboru and Elaine and make sure this doesn’t happen to other families.”
The 442nd Veterans Club have long supported an amendment to the law, and pushed the Hawai`i State Legislature to pass House Bill 600 (HB600), a bill introduced in 2015 by Rep. John Mizuno that would amend the law to let a private-paying couple to live together in a community care foster family home. However, the Health Department and Human Services Department opposed the bill, and in April 2016 it was struck down in conference.
Cades Schutte filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Honolulu. The suit alleges violations of the Kawamotos’ fundamental right to family integrity, which is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
For more information, please reach out to Jeffrey Portnoy directly at 808-521-9221, or by email at [email protected]
About Cades Schutte
Cades Schutte is Hawai`i’s largest full service law firm, with over 60 attorneys offering clients superior legal services in over 20 practice areas, and expertise in 50 of today’s most in demand industries. Since the firm’s founding in 1922, Cades attorneys have served as counsel in some of the most notable cases and transactions in the State of Hawai`i. A nationally recognized, and award-winning legal leader in the areas of litigation, real estate, bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate/commercial, tax, labor and employment law, trusts and estates, Cades has deep roots in Hawai`i, with offices located in Honolulu, Kona, Waimea, Kahului, and Lihue. For more information, please visit www.cades.com.
Jeffrey S. Portnoy
Cades Schutte LLP