Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court held that res judicata does not preclude a Haw. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion for relief from judgment in a foreclosure proceeding and that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's Rule 60(b) motion in this case.The circuit court found Appellant in default on her mortgage and granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent. Before a foreclosure sale took place, Appellant filed a Rule 60(b) motion, challenging Respondent's standing to bring a foreclosure action against her. The circuit court denied the motion. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed, ruling that res judicata precluded Appellant's post-judgment Rule 60(b) motion. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding (1) res judicata did not bar Appellant's Rule 60(b) motion; but (2) the circuit court properly denied the Rule 60(b) motion because there were no extraordinary circumstances warranting extraordinary relief under Rule 60(b)(6). View "Pennymac Corp. v. Godinez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court extended an August 27, 2020 order for first circuit criminal matters, which was extended pursuant to a September 11, 2020 order, until November 16, 2020, determining that changing conditions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic required flexibility and vigilance regarding the need to protect the health and safety of court users and Judiciary personnel.In July 2020, there was a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, included cases in community correctional centers and facilities, particularly at the O'ahu Community Correctional Center. As a result, the time requirements for preliminary hearings under Haw. R. Pen. P. (HRPP) 5(c)(3) was impacted. In August 2020, the Supreme Court entered an order providing that the first circuit may temporarily extend the time requirements for preliminary hearings no longer than reasonably necessary to protect public health and safety. In September, the order was extended. Because the transports of custody defendants from all O'ahu correctional facilities remained suspended and the exponential number of citations issued for Haw. Rev. Stat. ch. 127A violations remained high, the Supreme Court extended the August order for first circuit criminal matters until November 16, 2020. View "In re Judiciary’s Response to COVID-19 Outbreak" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the Chief Election Officer's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's election complaint, holding that the Court could not grant the relief requested.Plaintiff Ashley Famera-Rosenzweig was one of four candidates in the democratic primary election for the office of U.S. Representative, District II in the August 8, 2020 primary election. Kahele received the highest number of votes in the election, and Plaintiff received the least. In her complaint, Plaintiff asked the Supreme Court to strike Kahele's name from the ballot, alleging that Kahele's voluntary assignment with the National Guard prior to the election was a tactical move to prevent all candidates from participating in appearances and debates with media networks. The Supreme Court dismissed the action, holding that Plaintiff presented no set of facts that would entitle her to the requested relief. View "Famera-Rosenzweig v. Kahele " on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint contending that the Supreme Court should strike Kaiali'i Kahele as a democratic candidate for the office of U.S. Representative, District II, holding that Plaintiff presented no set of facts that would entitle him to the requested relief.Plaintiff Brian Evens was one of four candidates in the democratic primary election of the the office of U.S. Representative, District II in the August 8, 2020 primary election. The election results had Kahele receiving the most votes. In his complaint, Evans argued that Kahele conspired to deprive the other candidates of their right to a fair race and the public's knowledge of the candidates. The Supreme Court granted the Chief Election Officer's motion to dismiss, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that he was entitled to relief and that Kahele's name shall be placed on the ballot as the democratic candidate in the November 2020 general election. View "Evans v. Kahele " on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the district court's judgment finding Defendant guilty of resisting arrest, holding that Defendant was entitled to relief on his claim that his waiver of his right to a jury trial was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.Defendant signed a waiver form purporting to waive his right to a jury trial on the charge of resisting arrest. The district court accepted the waiver. After a bench trial, the court found Defendant guilty of resisting arrest and several other charges. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) the record did not reflect a discuss and exchange sufficient to satisfy the district court's responsibility of ensuring a jury trial waiver's validity; and (2) under this Court's recent decision in State v. Ernes, 465 P.3d 763 (Haw. 2020), Defendant's waiver was not properly verified as knowing, intelligent and voluntary. View "State v. Voorhees " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court held that, under the totality of the circumstances in this case, the results of Defendant's breath test were admissible because Defendant validly consented to the breath test.After police arrested Defendant for habitually operating a vehicle under the influence of intoxicants an officer read Defendant the Honolulu Police Department's (HPD) implied consent form. Defendant signed and initialed the form consenting to the breath test. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of the breath test, arguing that his consent was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary because the form did not comply with the implied consent statutory scheme and was, therefore, inaccurate. The circuit court suppressed Defendant's breath test results. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court's order, concluding that suppression of Defendant's breath test was not the proper remedy for non-compliance with Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 291E procedures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the implied consent form here complied with Chapter 291E and was not inaccurate or misleading; and (2) only inaccuracies in implied consent forms that are reasonably likely to influence an arrestee to consent will require suppression. View "State v. Hosaka" on Justia Law

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In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court entered judgment dismissing this complaint asking the Court to nullify the results of the August 8, 2020 primary election for the City and County of Honolulu mayoral seat and allow all candidates who choose to continue to the November general election to have their names appear on the ballot, holding that the complaint failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted.Plaintiff was one of fifteen candidates for the City and County of Honolulu mayoral seat in the primary election. Rick Blangiardi and Keith Amemiya received the highest number of votes. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that their were multiple irregularities with the primary election. The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, holding (1) the city clerk for the City and County of Honolulu was a necessary and indispensable party who should have been named as a defendant; and (2) in any case, the complaint failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted. View "Dicks v. State of Hawai'i Office of Elections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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Given the rising number of COVID-19 cases at the O'ahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) and the difficulties with social distancing the Supreme Court requested additional information to assist the court and parties in addressing the public health and safety concerns raised by the cluster of COVID-19 cases at OCCC.The Office of the Public Defender (ODP) filed a petition for extraordinary writ and/or a writ of mandamus seeking a reduction of the inmate populations at the State's correctional centers and facilities in an effort to mitigate the harm that COVID-19 may inflict upon the inmates, correctional staff, and general public. The Supreme Court stated that there was an urgent and immediate concern in reducing the inmate populations at OCCC and ordered that the DPS shall provide to the OPD a list of all inmates at OCCC who meet certain criteria. View "In re Individuals in Custody of State of Hawai'i" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals and the circuit court's judgment convicting Defendant of assault in the second degree, holding that the prosecutor's misconduct in this case violated Defendant's due process right to a fair trial.Defendant was convicted of assault in the second degree in connection with an incident involving Defendant's wife (CW). The only witnesses to the incident at the time the injury were Defendant and CW. During trial, the prosecutor made at least eight improper statements during closing argument, and the misconduct affected the central issue to Defendant's self-defense claim of whether he acted with the intent to protect himself. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the strength of the evidence in support of self-defense, the protracted nature of the prosecutorial misconduct, and the court's ineffective curative instructions led to the conclusion that the misconduct was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Conroy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the district court's judgment convicting Defendant of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII), holding that the ICA gravely erred as a matter of law in finding that even if the district court erroneously allowed a police officer to opine that Defendant failed standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), the error was harmless.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court erred by permitting Officer Joshua Wong to express an expert opinion that Defendant "failed" the SFSTs, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the district court erred in permitting expert opinion testimony that Defendant had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or above; (3) the district court did not err in permitting expert opinion testimony that Defendant was intoxicated, but, prospectively, police officers may no longer testify, whether in a lay or expert capacity, that a driver appeared "intoxicated"; and (4) Defendant's conviction was supported by substantial evidence. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law