Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's final judgment granting and apportioning monetary damages to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries after ruling that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust (Trust), holding that the Fair Market Rental Value (FMRV) model is an adequate method for approximating actual damages. Plaintiffs were a group of Native Hawaiian Trust beneficiaries who claimed that they incurred damages while on the waitlist to receive homestead land due to breaches of trust duties by the State. In 2009, the circuit court ruled that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Trust. In 2018, the circuit court entered a final judgment adopting a FMRV model by which it could estimate the actual loss each individual beneficiary incurred. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err by adopting the FMRV model; (2) incorrectly ruled that a beneficiary's damages did not begin to accrue until six years after the State received a beneficiary's homestead application; and (3) did not err in finding that the State breached its trust duties by failing to recover lands that were withdrawn from the Trust prior to statehood. View "Kalima v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Defendants' petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) manifestly abused its discretion in setting the amount of a supersedeas bond as a condition of staying the enforcement of a judgment and writ of possession pending appeal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on its complaint for ejectment against Defendants. While Defendants' appeal was pending, Defendants moved for a stay of proceedings to enforce the judgment. The circuit court granted the request and required Defendants to post a supersedeas bond in the amount of $578,000. Defendants then filed a motion for a stay in the ICA. The ICA granted a stay on the condition that it would be effective upon the ICA's approval of a supersedeas bond in the amount of $250,000 (the stay order). Defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus from the ICA's stay order, arguing that the amount of the supersedeas bond should not exceed $8,000. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) the ICA not apply relevant factors in setting the bond amount, and (2) the stay order lacked a reasonable timeframe in which Defendants would be required to post the bond. View "Kelepolo v. Fernandez" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court held prospectively that once the court receives notice pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 407.5(1) that a defendant's penal responsibility is an issue in the case, the circuit court must advise a defendant of the penal-responsibility defense and obtain a knowing waiver of the defense. During the criminal proceedings in this case, two of the three examiners concluded that Defendant lacked penal responsibility. Defendant insisted that he was not mentally ill and that he did not want to assert a defense based on lack of penal responsibility. The circuit court eventually found Defendant was fit to stand trial, and Defendant was found guilty. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court should have either sua sponte instructed the jury about the defense of criminal responsibility or conduct a colloquy to ensure that he knowingly and voluntarily decided not to raise the defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that (1) going forward, courts have a duty to obtain a knowing and voluntary waiver of a penal-responsibility defense; and (2) the trial court followed the rules in place at the time of Defendant's conviction and had no duty to sua sponte instruct the jury on lack of penal responsibility. View "State v. Glenn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law because the employer failed to overcome the presumption in favor of compensability. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for injury-by-disease. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) rejected the claim, concluding that the employer's Independent Medical Examinations (IME) reports provided sufficient substantial evidence to overcome the statutory presumption in favor of compensability. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the LIRAB's decision, holding that the employer's IME reports failed to provide substantial evidence to meet its burden to produce evidence that, if true, would overcome the statutory presumption that the injury was work-related. The Court remanded the case to the LIRAB with the instruction that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law. View "Cadiz v. QSI, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's sentence for theft in the second degree by shoplifting, holding that, pursuant to State v. Auld, 361 P.3d 471 (Haw. 2015), Defendant's sentence violated his right to a jury determination as to whether he qualified to be sentenced as a repeat offender pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-606.5. The circuit court sentenced Defendant as a repeat offender to a mandatory minimum of five years' incarceration without the possibility of parole. The circuit court, however, did not require a jury to find that Defendant qualified as a repeat offender beyond a reasonable doubt, as required by Auld. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment on appeal and the circuit court's sentence and remanded the case for resentencing, holding (1) Defendant was entitled to the protections of Auld; and (2) the State was required to, but did not, prove Defendant's predicate prior convictions to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt prior to imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence as a repeat offender. View "State v. Means" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII), holding that the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to compel. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) as to Defendant's speedy trial challenges, Haw. R. Penal P. 48 requires a "meaningful" commencement of trial, a trial is "meaningfully" commenced when a trial court reasonably commits its resources to the trial, and this holding applies prospectively to events occurring after publication of this decision; (2) the prosecutor in this case was not required to personally review files of the testifying police officers; and (3) the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to compel production of a video recording showing Defendant at the police station after her arrest because the video recording was material to Defendant's defense and her request was reasonable. View "State v. Alkire" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case arising from settlement negotiations between Plaintiff and Defendants relating to a dispute about water and mold damage to Plaintiff's condominium the Supreme Court remanded this case with instruction that the circuit court hold an evidentiary hearing to address issues of fact as to the terms and existence of a purported settlement agreement between the parties. At the close of a settlement conference, the circuit court and the parties acknowledged that the parties had reached a settlement. Plaintiff, however, refused to sign the settlement documents and proceeded to represent herself pro se. Defendants filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the parties had entered into a binding settlement agreement but that the proposed written settlement agreement contained terms beyond those agreed to at the settlement conference. Therefore, the court struck those terms and created a revised settlement agreement. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the parties reached a valid settlement agreement and as to which terms the parties agreed to at the settlement conference, the circuit court should have granted Plaintiff's motion for an evidentiary hearing to resolve those issues. View "McKenna v. Association of Apartment Owners of Elima Lani" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's judgment of conviction and sentence, holding that Defendant's privilege against self-incrimination was infringed when the circuit court permitted the jury to view a video of Defendant invoking that privilege. Defendant was charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree as a result of an altercation with another person during which Defendant allegedly punched and kicked that person multiple times. During trial, the State played for the jury a video of a detective interviewing Defendant that concluded with Defendant declining the detective's request that Defendant reenact the altercation. The jury convicted Defendant of attempted murder in the second degree. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial, holding that Defendant invoked his right to remain silent when he declined to participate in a reenactment of the encounter and that his right to do so was infringed when the prosecution played the police interview video before the jury at trial. View "State v. Beaudet-Close" on Justia Law