Na Keokani Kipona Marciel, Loea Lula Hoʻomalu
In the Lāhui today, we're familiar with terms like "international law" and "the rule of law,"
but what about "parliamentary law"?
What Is Parliamentary Law and How is It Relevant to the Lāhui?
Hawaiian patriotic societies and political parties were commonplace in the Lāhui during the Hawaiian Kingdom era. In fact, the proposed foreign—albeit illegal—annexation of the Hawaiian Islands was prevented from ever succeeding due to the efforts of the three largest Hawaiian patriotic societies at the close of the 19th century. These deliberative assemblies conducted their affairs according to the common parliamentary law. In other words: the generally accepted customs and best practices of voluntary organizations designed to ensure effective meetings and democratic decisions.
Parliamentary law is a branch of common law governing the conduct of deliberative assemblies. Democratic procedure, i.e., parliamentary law, is derived from the legislative assemblies of the national and local governments under whose jurisdiction an organization is located. Although the procedure of voluntary organizations was originally modeled after the procedure of their respective legislative bodies, over time the non-legislative procedure has been adapted to the needs of ordinary societies in general. This body of meeting procedures has become known as common parliamentary law, also known as general parliamentary law.
The common parliamentary law applies to all deliberative assemblies, including legislative bodies, in cases where their own adopted rules are silent. The operative word, "law," means that parliamentary law is not a switch that can be turned on or off. Hence, it is not an optional tool for deliberative assemblies. Instead, a deliberative assembly may only deviate from the common parliamentary law by adopting a procedural manual (parliamentary authority), standing rules of order, or long-standing customs, which supersede particular rules of common parliamentary law. However, an organization can only adopt its own standing rules of order or long-standing customs to the extent that they do not conflict with any applicable procedural rules prescribed by law or statutes in the jurisdiction where the organization is located.
What Is a Deliberative Assembly?
A deliberative assembly is a group of people sharing a common interest who have a meeting of the minds to democratically adopt decisions expressing their general will. Types of deliberative assemblies include:
The formation of a permanently organized deliberative assembly entails the adoption of governing documents, enrollment of members, election of officers, holding of regular meetings, and appointment of committees as needed. The meetings of a deliberative assembly entail adequate prior notice to all members, the presence of a quorum, an agreed-upon agenda that follows a prescribed order of business, a presiding officer to conduct the meetings, and a secretary to keep a legal record of the proceedings. If the organization collects membership dues or otherwise handles money, then a treasurer should be elected to maintain the funds of the organization, report the current balance at regular meetings, and provide an annual financial report to be audited by the organization.
What is a Parliamentary Authority?
Deliberative assemblies may adopt a published procedural manual, formally known as a parliamentary authority. Such a manual is a codification of common parliamentary law which contains standardized rules of order for meetings. The way that a procedural manual is adopted by a permanent organization is by including an article in its bylaws that references the manual. Additionally, an organization may adopt standing rules of order that supersede or supplement its adopted procedural manual.
What Gave Rise to Parliamentary Procedure Throughout the World?
Democratic procedure for group decisions is rooted in antiquity. The House of Commons in the United Kingdom—considered the mother of all parliamentary democracies—has formally conducted its business in democratic meetings for over seven centuries. The Speaker of the House of Commons serves as the impartial referee of its proceedings. Likewise, the Hawaiian Kingdom had a Speaker for its House of Representatives.
When Was Parliamentary Law Established in the Hawaiian Islands?
In 1840, the Hawaiian Kingdom became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. In 1854, each house of the Hawaiian Kingdom legislature adopted a procedural manual to govern the proceedings of their respective meetings. In turn, this established a basis for development of the common parliamentary law followed by ordinary societies and mass meetings in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
To What Extent Did Our Ancestors Know Parliamentary Law?
The Petition Against Annexation of 1897 defeated a proposed treaty in the United States Senate that would have illegally annexed the Hawaiian Islands if it had been adopted in 1898. Beloved by the Lāhui today, the significance of the monster petition—which we proudly refer to as the Kūʻē Petition--constitutes an unsurpassed historical feat. It was but one example of many petitions organized by Hawaiian patriotic societies in response to the insurgency that began in 1887, followed by the ongoing belligerent occupation that began in 1893.
During that time, our Aloha ʻĀina ancestors commonly organized themselves into deliberative assemblies. They did this by adopting governing documents, enrolling members, electing officers, holding meetings, authorizing boards, appointing committees, adopting resolutions, conducting mass meetings, participating in delegate conventions, and organizing petition efforts. The Hawaiian language newspapers of that era provide an historical record today that is full of examples demonstrating the commonality of, and familiarity with, parliamentary law in the Lāhui.
To What Extent Today Are We Familiar with Parliamentary Law?
During the Hawaiian Kingdom era, the Lāhui had no shortage of patriotic societies and political parties. Can the same be said about the Lāhui today? Of all the Aloha ʻĀina groups that we are familiar with today, how many can you identify with having any of the following items characteristic of a deliberative assembly?
What Do the Governing Documents Include?
The governing documents of an organization are sometimes referred to instead as the documents of authority, or the documentary authority. An organized permanent society may adopt any of the following documents of authority as needed:
Bylaws are the only governing document on the list that a voluntary permanent organization is required to adopt as a deliberative assembly. When drafting bylaws, it is advisable for an organization to consult with a credentialed parliamentarian for assistance.
Additionally, if an organization chooses to incorporate, then a corporate charter would be required as prescribed by applicable statutes. When drafting articles of incorporation, it is advisable for an organization to consult with an attorney for assistance.
Bylaws Are for Organizations and Constitutions Are for Governments
The practice of an organization adopting a constitution—with or without bylaws to go with it—is long since obsolete. The main reason is for simplification, since there are no provisions of an organizational constitution that cannot function the same way in the bylaws. Therefore, it is the recommended practice to combine the two into a single instrument called the bylaws. Furthermore, bylaws are to an organization as a constitution is to a government. That is another good reason why the term, "constitution," has been dropped from the governing documents of contemporary ordinary societies. This removes any potential for someone getting confused about the context in which the term, "constitution," is being used.
Which Procedural Manual is Best?
As suggested above, it is a best practice for voluntary organizations to adopt a procedural manual through a provision in the bylaws. The procedural manual that I generally recommend for voluntary organizations is Modern Parliamentary Procedure (2nd ed., 2018) by Ray Keesey. It offers the most radical simplification of procedure of all the parliamentary authorities ever published. Hence, it is the most concise, user-friendly, and practical choice available for the average meeting. For the Lāhui, I also recommend Nā Lula Hālāwai: A Parliamentary Guide to Conducting Meetings in Hawaiian (2014), by William Puette and Keao NeSmith.
Current Parliamentary Authorities
Older Parliamentary Authorities
Historic Parliamentary Authorities
Additional Parliamentary References
KA PAIO HANOHANO