The biggest Hawaii-related case of the year that was not just a local story was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the "ceded lands" case, Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, 129 S. Ct. 1463 (Mar. 31, 2009). [Disclosure: we filed a brief in the case in support of the State, available here]
In a resounding thumping of the arguments advanced by OHA, the unanimous Court held that the Congressional resolution apologizing for the United States' role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom was just an apology, and had no legal effect. The Court's opinion is posted here. Our summary of the opinion by Justice Alito is here.
Our thoughts on the case: start with Three Takeaway Points From The "Ceded Lands" Decision, then visit our ceded lands case page for links to more commentary and resources.
The Harvard Law Review counted the case among the year's more interesting and important decisions, although the summary of the case fell apart when it asserted that political rhetoric like the Apology Resolution should be accorded legal significance.
For your listening and viewing pleasure: some kind of boy-band cover of the original, but at least they had the good sense to include Sir Elton.