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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of committing the offense of terroristic threatening in the second degree, rendered after a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that his substantial rights were violated when, during closing argument, the prosecutor read a portion of the complainant’s prior statement to the police where its contents had not been admitted into evidence. The Supreme Court agreed that error occurred, holding that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the prior statement was clearly relevant to proving the terroristic threatening offense, the State’s case was enhanced by the statement, and the defense’s case was significantly prejudiced. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "State v. McGhee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In eight separate criminal cases, International Fidelity Insurance Company issued eight separate powers of attorney (POAs) to either Ida Peppers of Freedom Bail Bond or Charles Fisher of AAA Local Bail Bonds to execute a bail bond on behalf of the defendants in each case. In each case, the bonded defendant failed to appear, and the circuit court entered a judgment and order of forfeiture of bail bond. The court provided notice of those judgments to the surety listed on the bonds. International Fidelity moved to set aside each of the forfeiture judgments, arguing that it did not receive notice of the judgments as required under Haw. Rev. Stat. 804-51. The circuit court denied the motions. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that due process and the requirements of section 804-51 were satisfied when notice of the forfeiture judgments were issued to Peppers or Fisher. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err (1) in determining that notice to International Fidelity of the forfeiture judgments was not required by due process or under section 804-51; and (2) to the extent the forfeiture judgments were ambiguous, they were entered against the sureties on the bond - Peppers or Fisher. View "State v. Nelson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Christopher Haig and Myrna Murdoch, two beneficiaries of a testamentary trust created under the will of Samuel Damon, objected to the probate court’s approval of the trust’s accounts from 1999 to 2003. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the probate court’s judgment. Christopher and Myrna separately applied for a writ of certiorari asserting that their due process rights were violated when they were not granted access to documents disclosed to the court-appointed master by the trustees of the trust, which prevented them from making informed objections to the master’s reports regarding the trusts’ accounts during the relevant time period. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ICA erred in affirming the probate court’s approval and adoption of the master’s report without first granting the beneficiaries’ requests to access trust administration documents, in violation of the requirements of Haw. Rev. Stat. 560:7-303. View "In re Trust Created Under the Will of Samuel M. Damon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The circuit court deprived Defendant of his right to confront and cross-examine the complaining witness (CW) as to her bias and motive by limiting the CW’s testimony on the subject of Defendant’s immigration status and whether the CW knew that Defendant could face deportation if he was arrested. Defendant was found guilty of terroristic threatening in the first degree. The offense arose from a domestic dispute between Defendant and his ex-girlfriend, the CW. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. Defendant filed an application for writ of certiorari, challenging the circuit court’s decision to limit the CW’s testimony on cross-examination. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction and probation sentence and remanded the case to the circuit court for a new trial. View "State v. Acacio" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the administration of two irrevocable trusts (together, the trusts) established by Richard and Rachel Ishida. The trusts named as beneficiaries the Ishidas’ daughters Jeri Wilson and Juney Ishida and their granddaughter Kaki Wilson, but the trusts expressly excluded the Ishidas’ third daughter, Deenie Kimora. Six years after they created the trusts the Ishidas requested rescission of both trusts, alleging that they did not intend to make the trusts irrevocable and that Jeri had wrongfully transferred ownership of property from one trust to herself. The probate court ordered the property transferred by Jeri returned to the trust but declined to rescind or reform the trusts. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the probate court did not err in denying the Ishidas’ requested relief because the matter was within the court’s equitable discretion; and (2) the ICA properly found that the probate court was not required to accept at face value the Ishidas’ petitions, which were verified pursuant to Hawai’i Probate Rules Rule 5(a). View "In re Ishida-Waiakamilo Legacy Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) erred in concluding that a challenge to the erroneous inclusion of prior convictions in a PSI cannot be brought on a Hawai'i Rules of Penal Procedure Rule 35 motion for post-conviction relief; The circuit court sentenced Stanley Kong to consecutive terms of imprisonment based on a presentence investigation report (PSI) that erroneously included two prior convictions that had been previously vacated and dismissed. Kong’s counsel did not, however, bring this fact to the circuit court’s attention. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence in Kong I. Thereafter, Kong filed a motion under Rule 35(b) to reconsider or reduce sentence challenging the erroneous inclusion of the two prior convictions in his PSI. The circuit court denied the motion. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and remanded, holding (1) the ICA erred in concluding that Defendant could not challenge, via a Rule 35 motion, the erroneous inclusion of the two prior convictions in his PSI; and (2) the circuit court erred by concluding that Kong I precluded its reevaluation of Kong’s sentence and by failing to address Kong’s challenge to the inclusion of the two vacated and dismissed prior convictions in his PSI. View "State v. Kong" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellants, a group of individual condominium owners in the Kapulua Bay condominium, challenged the vote of the Association of Apartment Owners of Kapulua Bay Condominium to convert the residential community into a hotel. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. On appeal, Appellants challenged the adequacy of the neutral arbitrator’s disclosures in the arbitration. The circuit court concluded that vacatur was not required because the undisclosed relationships did not constitute “evident partiality.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in concluding that the arbitrator’s undisclosed connections with certain parties did not constitute evident partiality. View "Narayan v. Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Kapalua Bay Condominium" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, it was unconscionable to require an employee to pay half the estimated arbitration costs up front in order to access the arbitral forum, and therefore, the requirement was unenforceable. Plaintiff signed and submitted an employment contract that contained an arbitration provision. Plaintiff, however, never did work for Defendant. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant refused to hire her in retaliation for her filing a sexual harassment complaint. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion to compel, arguing, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because it required her to pay for the arbitration costs in a civil rights matter. The circuit court ultimately granted Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. The court found it would be unconscionable for Plaintiff to pay half the arbitration estimate to access the arbitral forum but nonetheless concluded that the arbitration clause could be enforced by requiring Defendant to pay for all arbitration fees and costs. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order, holding that the circuit court (1) correctly concluded that the parties entered into a valid arbitration agreement; but (2) improperly reformed the arbitration agreement instead of invalidating the entire agreement. View "Gabriel v. Island Pacific Academy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the State and the State Department of Transportation (collectively, the State) after a rockfall occurred on the state highway on which Plaintiffs were driving and a boulder struck Plaintiffs’ vehicle, resulting in their injuries. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the State, concluding that the State breached a duty of care owed to Plaintiffs but that the State was not liable because Plaintiffs failed to prove legal causation. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the circuit court misapprehended the relevant standard for evaluating legal causation; and (2) the State failed to establish that it was relieved from liability under the discretionary function exception with regard to the duty recognized by the circuit court. View "O’Grady v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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This appeal arose from a judicial decree of foreclosure granted in favor of U.S. Bank N.A. (Plaintiff) and against Joseph and Chanelle Meneses (Defendants). The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, concluding that the circuit court properly granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and decree of foreclosure. Defendants appealed, arguing that Plaintiff lacked standing to foreclose. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and the circuit court’s order granting Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and decree of foreclosure, holding (1) there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC had the authority to sign a second assignment of mortgage to Plaintiff; and (2) in the judicial foreclosure context, a third party unrelated to a mortgage securitization pooling and servicing agreement lacks standing to enforce an alleged violation of its terms unless the violation renders the mortgage assignment void, rather than voidable. View "U.S. Bank N.A. v. Mattos" on Justia Law