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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal and affirmed the circuit court's order granting Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief on the ground that the trial court's failure to conduct a colloquy with Defendant when accepting a stipulation to elements of the charged offense was plain error. Defendant was charged with drug-related crimes. During trial, the parties entered into a stipulation to elements of the charged offenses. The jury subsequently convicted Defendant on both charges. Defendant later filed a petition to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment asserting that his constitutional rights to a fair trial were violated when the circuit court failed to conduct an on-the-record colloquy with him regarding his waiver of the right to proof of an element of a charge before accepting the stipulation. The circuit court granted the petition and ordered that a new trial be held. The ICA vacated the circuit court's order granting the petition. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the trial court's failure to conduct an on-the-record colloquy with Defendant before accepting the stipulation establishing an element of the charged offenses was plain error. View "Grindling v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this work injury discrimination case the Supreme Court held that in order for business necessity to constitute a valid defense to a claim of work injury discrimination, an employer must demonstrate that the employee's absence caused a business impairment that could not be reasonably alleviated by means that would not result in discrimination. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment the intermediate court of appeals' judgment on appeal and the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Director of the Hawai'i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that the work injury discrimination in this case was contravened by Hawaii law, holding that the decision of the hearing officer that the employer in this case discriminated against the employee solely because of her work injury should have been affirmed. View "BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, Inc. v. Murakami" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) and the portion of the circuit court's judgment of conviction and sentence sentencing Defendant, holding that the circuit court plainly erred by considering Defendant's refusal to admit guilt in imposing his sentence. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of four counts of sexual assault in the first degree as to a minor and one count of sexual assault in the first degree as to another minor. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to a term of twenty years for each count, with terms for four of the counts to be served concurrently and the term for the remaining count to be served consecutively to the foregoing terms. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for resentencing, holding that while the arguments Defendant raised on appeal lacked merit there was clearly an indication that Defendant's sentence was likely to have been improperly influenced by his persistence in his innocence. View "State v. Barnes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal and vacated the circuit court's order denying Appellant's oral motion to withdraw pleas in his global plea agreement to two criminal offenses, one charged in the family court and the other charged in the circuit court, holding that the circuit court should have allowed Appellant to withdraw both of his pleas. The criminal offense Appellant was charged with in the family court was legally impossible for him to have committed under the law in effect at the time of his plea. The circuit court denied Appellant's motion to withdraw his pleas in both cases and entered a sentence pursuant to the plea agreement. The ICA concluded that the circuit court should not have accepted Appellant's guilty plea to the charge in the family court case but found that Appellant's plea in the circuit court case was an otherwise valid plea. The Supreme Court held that because both of Appellant's pleas were encompassed in the global plea agreement and because the ICA correctly concluded that Appellant was entitled to withdraw his plea in the family court case, the ICA should have also held that Appellant was permitted to withdraw his plea in the circuit court case. View "State v. Guity" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals and vacated Defendant's conviction of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, holding that Defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted because he was seized longer than was necessary for the police to conduct an investigation confirming the absence of a required tax decal. The pat-down of Defendant occurred after a police officer noticed Defendant riding a bicycle lacking a tax decal, which is required by law on all bicycles with wheels twenty inches or more in diameter. After the time necessary for the police to conduct the investigation confirming the officer's reasonable suspicion that the tax decal was missing and to issue a citation for the missing decal, a warrant check came back from dispatch indicating that Defendant had an outstanding warrant. Defendant was arrested based on the outstanding warrant, and a search incident to arrest revealed drugs and drug paraphernalia. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's arrest was illegal because the warrant check came back after the span of time necessary for the police to write and issue the citation; and (2) therefore, the evidence obtained as a result of the arrest was fruit of the poisonous tree. View "State v. Iona" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the district court that Defendant violated Haw. Rev. Stat. 286-102(b) by operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license, holding that because Defendant failed to meet her burden to produce "some evidence" to support an exemption from the requirement to operate a motor vehicle with a valid Hawai'i driver's license, as set forth in Haw. Rev. Stat. 286-105, the burden did not shift to the State. Defendant argued on appeal that the State bore the burden to prove that Defendant did not possess a valid driver's license issued by Canada or a valid commercial driver's license issued by Canada or Mexico, which would have exempted her from the requirement to operate a motor vehicle with a valid Hawai'i driver's license. The ICA disagreed and affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant bore the burden to produce evidence that she possessed a valid driver’s license in Canada or a valid commercial driver’s license in Canada or Mexico before the burden shifted to the State to prove that she did not have a driver’s license that qualified as an exemption. View "State v. Castillon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal and the circuit court's order granting summary judgment against Plaintiff on the basis of his failure to timely respond to Defendant's request for admissions, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying withdrawal of Plaintiff's admissions and, absent the admissions, there were genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment against Plaintiff. Plaintiff's claims were dismissed based on his alleged failure timely to respond to a request for admissions, even where he had requested that the trial court provide him with an interpreter to help answer the requests. Plaintiff was denied the opportunity to exercise his right to a jury trial on the basis of his alleged failure to respond to a request for admissions that asked him to concede he had no claim. The ICA affirmed. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that his request for an interpreter should have been construed as a request to withdraw the admissions and file a late response. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that Plaintiff's request to obtain an interpreter should have been considered a motion to withdraw his admissions and continue the hearing on the motion for summary judgment. View "Villaver v. Sylva" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision and order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving an amended power purchase agreement (PPA) between Hawai'i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC, pursuant to which Hu Honua would construct and operate a biomass-field energy production facility and HELCO would purchase energy from the facility, holding that the PUC failed explicitly to consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in determining whether to approve the amended PPA and denied Life of the Land due process during the underlying proceedings. LOL, an environmental nonprofit organization, sought to intervene as a party in the PUC's proceeding in order to address the environmental impacts of the proposed facility. The PUC granted LOL limited participation in the proceeding and then approved the amended PPA. The Supreme Court vacated the PUC's order, holding (1) this Court has jurisdiction to consider LOL's appeal; (2) the PUC erred by failing explicitly to consider the reduction of GHG emissions in approving the amended PPA, as required by statute; and (3) the PUC denied LOL due process to protect its interest in a clean and healthful environment by restricting its participation in the proceeding. View "In re Application of Hawai'i Electric Light Co." on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's grant of summary judgment for Nationstar Mortgage, LLC but corrected the ICA's reasoning, holding that the ICA erred in holding that Nationstar's business records were trustworthy under the business records exception to hearsay and that Daniel Kaleoaloha Kanahele's affirmative defenses should have been addressed by the circuit court. After Kanahele defaulted on a loan, Nationstar initiated this foreclosure action. The circuit court issued final judgment in favor of Nationstar. Although the ICA vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings, Kanahele asked the Supreme Court to review additional issues he argued were either incorrectly resolved or left unresolved by the ICA. The Supreme Court held that the ICA erred with respect to two issues and that Kanahele would be prejudiced on remand absent the Court's further review. Specifically, the Court held (1) in light of Nationstar's failure adequately to explain material discrepancies in its business records and its presentation of contradictory declarations regarding which of several versions of Kanahele's note was the original, the ICA should have vacated the circuit court's order on this ground as well; and (2) the ICA should have clarified whether Nationstar was subject to Kanahele's affirmative defenses. View "Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Kanahele" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) finding that no evidence was introduced at trial to support the jury's findings that Regal Capital Corporation (Regal Corp.) violated the terms of agreements of sale it entered into with Elesther Calipjo for two parcels of land, Regal Capital Co., LLC (Regal LLC) engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices, and Jack Purdy was the alter ego of Regal Corp. and Regal LLC, holding that the ICA's holding was error. Based on the alter ego finding, the jury determined that Purdy, too violated the agreements for the two properties and committed unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The Supreme Court held (1) there was evidence to support the jury's verdict that Regal Corp. violated the terms of the agreements, Regal LLC engaged in unfair and deceptive acts or practices, and Purdy was the alter ego of Regal Corp. and Regal LLC; and (2) the ICA erred when it reversed the circuit court's final judgment against Purdy on the breach of contract and unfair and deceptive acts or practices claims. View "Calipjo v. Purdy" on Justia Law