Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
The Supreme Court vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment, guilty conviction, and sentence, holding that Defendant’s extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 1-3. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Defendant was sentenced to an extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-661 and 706-662(5). On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the State and its witnesses to refer to Edith Skinner as the “victim” at trial; (2) the circuit court did not err in excluding certain statements as hearsay; (3) the circuit court did not err by refusing Defendant’s proposed jury instructions for lesser included offenses; (4) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law because section 706-661 did not provide for a life sentence without the possibility of parole in 1989, when the offense in this case took place. View "State v. Austin " on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Haw. R. Civ. P. 56O(e) does not preclude an affidavit from being self-serving, nor does it require an affidavit to be corroborated by independent evidence. Further, an affidavit is conclusory if it expresses a conclusion without stating the underlying facts or reaches a conclusion that is not reasonably drawn from the underlying facts. In this case involving a claim brought by an employee against her former employer alleging that she was terminated on the basis of her gender, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in rejecting the employee’s declarations as uncorroborated, self-serving, and conclusory; (2) erred in striking a declaration submitted by an employee in opposition that complied with the circuit court’s order allowing supplemental briefing; and (3) erred in granting summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the employer’s proffered reasons for the employee’s termination were based on pretext. View "Nozawa v. Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, holding that the record did not support a conclusion that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify at trial was voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding that the district court’s end-of-trial Tachibana colloquy was adequate and that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify was validly made. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, holding (1) the Tachibana colloquy was deficient where the district court did not engage in a true colloquy with Defendant to ascertain her understanding of the stated constitutional principles and to ensure that Defendant’s decision not to testify was made with an understanding of these principles; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "State v. Celestine" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, holding that the record did not support a conclusion that Defendant’s waiver of the right to testify was voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court was required to engage him in a colloquy prior to accepting his waiver of the right to testify and that the colloquy was incomplete and defective because the court did not advise him that if he wanted to testify no one could prevent him from doing so. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the colloquy was inadequate because the district court did not advise Defendant that no one could prevent him from testifying, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Eduwensuyi" on Justia Law

by
There is a constitutional right of the public to film the official activities of police officers in a public place. Defendant was arrested for interfering with government operations and other offenses while filming with his cell phone police officers conducting a traffic enforcement operation. Defendant was charged with failing to comply with a lawful order of a police officer, an offense for which he had not been arrested. The district court dismissed both charges for lack of probable cause. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the district court’s order of dismissal and remanded the case, concluding that the district court erred in dismissing the charge of failure to comply with a lawful order of a police officer because probable cause existed to support the charge. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and affirmed the district court’s judgment, holding (1) the record did not support a finding of probable cause that Defendant failed to comply with a police officer’s order; and (2) this court need not address whether Defendant’s constitutional right to access and film the traffic stop was infringed in this case. View "State v. Russo" on Justia Law

by
The post-conviction petition filed in this case raised colorable claims for relief where Petitioner alleged that his stated desire to appeal the order dismissing his case without prejudice was not effectuated by his trial counsel and that his counsel wholly abandoned him following the court’s oral ruling of dismissal. This case involved the circuit court’s denial of Petitioner’s petition for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to Haw. R. Penal P. 40 without a hearing. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and the circuit court’s order denying the petition and remanded the case for a Rule 40 evidentiary hearing, holding that Petitioner presented colorable claims for post-conviction relief based on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and abandonment of representation by defense counsel. View "Maddox v. State" on Justia Law

by
Aerial surveillance of the curtilage of a private residence conducted for the purposes of detecting criminal activity thereupon qualifies as a “search” within the meaning of Haw. Const. art. I, 7. In this case, three helicopter flyovers of Defendant’s residence led to a police officer’s naked eye observation of two rows of potted marijuana plants growing in the curtilage of Defendant’s house. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the aerial search violated his reasonable expectation of privacy. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, concluding that the circuit court erred in concluding that Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area surrounding his house from aerial surveillance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the police officer conducted unconstitutional, warrantless searches in contravention of Defendant’s rights under Haw. Const. art. I, 7; and (2) therefore, the evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant, which was based on the officer’s observations during his aerial reconnaissance missions, was the fruit of the poisonous tree. View "State v. Quiday" on Justia Law