Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the environmental court's orders granting partial summary judgment and the ensuing order entering final judgment in favor of the Department of Water, County of Kaua'i (KDOW) in this transfer case addressing the required scope of environmental review under the Hawai'i Environmental Police Act (HEPA) and its administrative rules, holding that KDOW must prepare a new environmental assessment (EA) that complies with HEPA and its administrative rules.KDOW proposed to install an eighteen-inch-diamter water transmission in the Lihu'e area (relief line) that would run 9,000 feet in length and connect to existing KDOW water lines on each end. Pursuant to HEPA, KDOW published a final environmental assessment (FEA) for the relief line and made a finding of no significant impact. Plaintiff challenged the FEA in the environmental court, and the court granted summary judgment for KDOW. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that KDOW did not properly analyze the impact of water withdrawals facilitated by the relief line and may have improperly segmented the relief line from planned development projects and a water treatment facility project. View "Kia’i Wai O Wai’Ale’Ale v. Dep't of Water, County of Kaua'i" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals and the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's pro se Haw. R. Penal P. 40 petition challenging the sentencing court's judgment of conviction and sentence, holding that some of the grounds of Appellant's petition raised civil claims required to be transferred for disposition under the civil rules.Appellant pleaded guilty to multiple drug, theft, and firearm-related offenses, and the circuit court imposed concurrent prison terms and various monetary assessments. In his HRPP Rule 40 petition Appellant raised eight grounds challenging his conviction and sentence. The circuit court denied the petition without a hearing, and the intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court properly dismissed grounds one through five of Appellant's petition based on waiver; but (2) Appellant raised a colorable claim as to the monetary assessments; and (3) grounds six through eight raised civil claims required to be transferred for disposition under civil rules pursuant to HRPP Rule 40(c)(3). View "Warner v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the charges against him of, among other things, second-degree murder, holding that the State's prosecution of Defendant was unlawful under Haw. Rev. Stat. 801-1.On appeal from his convictions, Defendant argued that the State violated Haw. Rev. Stat. 801-1 by using the complaint and preliminary hearing process to prosecute him for second-degree murder, attempted murder in the first and second degree, and use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, holding (1) under section 801-1, criminal defendants cannot be "subject to be tried and sentenced to be punished in any court" for an alleged offense without an indictment or information, unless the charged offense is contempt or within the jurisdiction of the district court; and (2) defendants are "subject to be tried and sentenced to be punished" at arraignment. View "State v. Obrero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this matter that was submitted as a letter and construed as an election contest complaint, holding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.Plaintiff Ralph Cushnie and a group of thirty voters brought his action asserting that two audits were performed for the 2022 Primary Election that did not satisfy the requirements of Haw. Rev. Stat. 16-42 and requesting that the certification of the 2022 Primary Election be halted until a manual recount could be conducted. Defendant State of Hawaii - Chief Election Officer filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that Plaintiffs' requested remedy was not a remedy authorized by Haw. Rev. Stat. 11-173.5(b). View "Cushnie v. State, Chief Election Officer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this election complaint brought by Plaintiff Jay Dee Penn, holding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.Plaintiff brought this complaint asserting inaccurate reporting violations of law relating to election fraud, ballot irregularities, inadequate ballot security and voter discrimination and suppression. As relief, Plaintiff requested, among other things, that all 2022 primary election ballots be preserved for almost two years for further review and delaying the certification of the 2022 primary election until a statewide audit and recount could take place. The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that the remedies sought by Plaintiff were not authorized by Haw. Rev. Stat. 11-173.5(b). View "Penn v. State, Office of Elections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff's election complaint seeking a manual recount of the ballots cast in the 2022 Republican Primary Election for the House District 45 seat and an order requiring certain requests to be granted, holding that Plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.Plaintiff Carlotta Oquendo, one of the three Primary Election Republican Party candidates in the House District 45 race, filed a complaint requesting that an order be issued requiring a manual recount of the race and an order requiring certain requests be granted to restore public confidence in the integrity of Hawaii elections. The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, holding that Plaintiff's requests were not authorized by Haw. Rev. Stat. 11-173.5(b). View "Oquendo v. State, Office of Elections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applies to Haw. Rev. Stat. 46-72 and that a class action complaint may therefore satisfy the statue's notice requirement and that the availability of class action tolling turns on whether the class action provided the defendant notice of the subject matter and potential size of the litigation at issue.Plaintiff Hakim Ouansafi filed a putative class action lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu alleging that Honolulu's failure to inspect and maintain its storm and drainage system caused him and other Honolulu residents to be injured by the April 2018 flood. Ouansafi then settled on an individual basis with Honolulu. The district court denied class certification, after which individuals affected by the 2018 flood brought twelve separate actions against Honolulu. At issue was whether the' suits were timely. The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applied to the individual suits because the Ouansafi complaint satisfied tolled the statute of limitations applicable to the individual suits. View "Coles v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Plaintiffs' election contest complaint seeking nullification of the 2022 primary election results, holding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.Plaintiffs Gary Cordery and a group of thirty registered voters brought this election contest complaint alleging inconsistencies, errors and mistakes in the voting process during the 2022 Primary Election. As relief, Plaintiffs requested nullification of the 2022 primary election results and directions that all qualified candidates advance to the General Election. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the remedies sought by Plaintiffs were not statutorily authorized, and therefore, Plaintiffs' complaint failed to state a claim. View "Cordery v. State of Hawai'i Office of Elections " on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants in this election contest brought by Plaintiff Richard Kim, holding that Josh Green received the highest number of votes and that his name shall be placed on the ballot as the Democratic Party candidate for the Office of Governor in the 2022 General Election.Plaintiff, one of seven Democratic Party candidates for the Office of Governor in the 2022 General Election, brought this complaint asserting that compromised vote counting occurred and that he should have been declared the winner of the primary election race held on August 13, 2022. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact related to Plaintiff's election contest. View "Kim v. State of Hawai'i Office of Elections " on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this original proceeding that the Supreme Court construed as an election complaint, holding that this Court did not have jurisdiction to grant Plaintiff the relief he sought.Plaintiff, one of the two Primary Election Republican Party candidates in the Senate District 24 race, brought this action requesting that an order be issued halting the certification of the 2022 Primary Election so that a manual recount could be conducted and asserting, among other things, a lack of resolution on certain election integrity inquiries. The Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss filed by the State of Hawai'i Office of Elections, holding that this Court lacked the authority under Haw. Rev. Stat. 11-173.5(b) to grant Plaintiff the relief he sought. View "Lam v. State of Hawai'i Office of Elections " on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law