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At issue was whether a certificate of title was entered when a deed was accepted by the Office of the Assistant Registrar of the Land Court and stamped with a new certificate of title number. Plaintiff-mortgagor brought this action against Defendant-purchaser arguing that the non-judicial foreclosure sale of certain property was not lawfully conducted. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff’s arguments to invalidate the foreclosure sale were untimely because they were not raised before the issuance of a new certificate of title. Plaintiff argued in response that a new certificate of title had not been issued, and therefore, Plaintiff was not prevented from challenging the non-judicial foreclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the issuance of a new certificate of title number was sufficient to provide Defendant with statutory protection. The Supreme Court vacated the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) assignment of a new certificate of title number is not the statutory equivalent of an entry of a certificate of title, and therefore, the evidence in this case did not establish that a certificate of title had been entered; (2) accordingly, Plaintiff was not barred from bringing this action; and (3) an issue of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Omiya" on Justia Law

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Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-8, which governs a third party’s liability for workers’ compensation, provides the exclusive remedy for an employer to recover workers’ compensation benefits from a third-party tortfeasor. An employee of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc. (HDCC) was injured in a workplace accident, allegedly due to the actions of HDCC’s subcontractor, Fujikawa Associates, Inc. (Fujikawa). HDCC sought reimbursement from Fujikawa, claiming that workers’ compensation benefits were within the scope of the subcontract’s indemnity clause. When Fujikawa refused to indemnify HDCC, HDCC filed a complaint alleging breach of the subcontract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Fujikawa. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because HDCC did not avail itself of the exclusive remedy provided in section 386-8. View "Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. v. Fujikawa Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case regarding Petitioner’s request to access judicial records and documents related to a circuit court criminal proceeding, the Supreme Court ordered that the circuit court unseal the documents and that Petitioner be permitted to represent himself in any further proceedings on this matter. Petitioner filed a petition for writs of prohibition and mandamus to obtain access to sealed court documents and records. The petition further sought an order prohibiting the circuit court judge from requiring Petitioner to retain an attorney in order to assert a constitutional right of access to judicial records. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) the substantive requirements for sealing were not met because the record did not demonstrate a compelling need sufficient to overcome the public’s constitutional right of access; and (2) because Petitioner asserted the constitutional right of access as an individual, he had a right to represent himself in the unsealing proceedings. View "Grube v. Trader" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court refusing to accept Tracy Souza’s offer to stipulate to his prior felony conviction, which constituted an element of an offense with which he was charged. Souza was charged by felony information with place to keep unloaded firearms other than pistols and revolvers and ownership or possession prohibited of any firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of certain crimes. Following jury selection, Souza stipulated to his prior felony conviction. The jury found Souza guilty of both charged offenses. On appeal, Souza maintained that he was forced to accept the State’s proposed stipulation, which contained facts that were not elements of the offense and were unduly prejudicial. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the manner in which the circuit court addressed Souza’s offer to stipulate to the prior conviction element was inconsistent with this Court’s decision in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955 (Haw. 2007), and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Souza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not err in ruling that an injury suffered by Plaintiff that arose while she worked as a Public Health Educator IV for the State Department of Health (DOH) resulted from an “accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place” and was therefore a covered injury under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-336. Section 88-336 provides service-connected disability retirement benefits under the Employees’ Retirement System’s (ERS) Hybrid Plan to Class H public officers and employees, such as Petitioner. Petitioner submitted an application for service-connected disability retirement in connection with permanent incapacitating injuries she suffered to her elbow, arm, and hand. A hearing officer concluded that Petitioner’s excessive keyboarding over a period of time did not constitute an “accident” because it did not occur at a “specific time and place.” The ERS denied Petitioner’s application. The circuit court affirmed. The ICA vacated the circuit court’s decision and remanded to the circuit court with directions to vacate the ERS Board’s denial of disability retirement to Petitioner. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner’s injury occurred “while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place.” View "Pasco v. Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment to Plaintiff on remand from a decision by the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in Plaintiff’s favor on two issues relating to the existence of an implied easement from a landlocked parcel of land to the nearest road. The ICA held (1) the “unity of ownership” element for an implied easement may be satisfied by the Kingdom of Hawaii’s ownership of the two parcels prior to severance; and (2) the statute of limitations in Haw. Rev. Stat. 657-31 does not apply to implied easements, as in this case, but only to easements by prescription. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on each issue, holding that the ICA did not err in its judgment. View "Malulani Group, Ltd. v. Kaupo Ranch, LTD" on Justia Law

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Hawaii’s use tax, Haw. Rev. Stat. 238-2, does not violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution notwithstanding that the 2004 amendment to the statute eliminated the application of the tax to in-state unlicensed sellers. CompUSA Stores, L.P. filed claims for refund of its 2006, 2007, and 2008 use tax payments. The Department of Taxation (Department) denied the request. CompUSA appealed, arguing that the tax discriminates against out-of-state commerce, cannot be justified by a legitimate local purpose, and thus violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The Tax Appeals Court granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the current version of the use statute establishes a classification between in-state and out-of-state sellers; but (2) the statute satisfies rational basis review because the classification of out-of-state sellers bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of leveling the economic playing field for local businesses subject to the general excise tax. View "CompUSA Stores, L.P. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reiterated its holding in State v. Murray, 169 P.3d 955, 964 (2007), that a trial court must engage a defendant in an on-the-record colloquy to ensure the defendant is intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily relinquishing the right to have all elements of a charged criminal offense proven beyond a reasonable doubt before the court may accept the defendant’s admission of an element of the crime. Further, the Court declined to establish an exception to the colloquy requirement when a stipulation is based on trial strategy or time constraints. Defendant was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII). Defendant stipulated to the fact that her blood was drawn and that the blood test results showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1056 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. The district court found Defendant guilty of OVUII. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s OVUII conviction, holding that the district court plainly erred in failing to engage Defendant in an on-the-record colloquy regarding the stipulation to the blood test results, as required by Murray, and erred in accepting the stipulation as evidence proving that Defendant’s BAC was .08 or more grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters or cubic centimeters of blood. View "State v. Ui" on Justia Law

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In the second appeal regarding this Landlord-Tenant dispute involving the eviction of Tenant from Landlord’s condominium, the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) failed adequately to address the district court’s denial of what Tenant called his “implicit counterclaim” for retaliatory eviction. In 2008, the district court issued a writ of possession to Landlord, which was executed against Tenant. The ICA vacated the district court’s ruling in part and remanded. The ICA affirmed the district court’s decision on remand except as to an award of attorney fees to Landlord. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the ICA and the district court, holding that Tenant properly raised a counterclaim of retaliatory eviction in his original answer, even though it was not denominated as such. Because the ICA on the second appeal did not determine as much, this case must be remanded to the district court with instructions to allow Tenant to proceed on the counterclaim in his original answer and to allow Landlord to assert any relevant defenses. View "Ryan v. Herzog" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant