Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's convictions and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that multiple instances of improper prosecutorial conduct cumulatively jeopardized Defendant's right to a fair trial. Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and carrying or use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the circuit court erred in denying his motions for mistrial and motion for a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper conduct was so prejudicial as to jeopardize Defendant's right a fair trial. View "State v. Pasene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the district court's judgment finding Defendant guilty of obstructing a highway or public passage after Defendant appeared pro se before the court, holding that the record on appeal did not indicate a valid waiver of counsel. At Defendant's plea hearing Defendant signed a form waiving his right to counsel. The court engaged in a colloquy with Defendant. Thereafter, the district court found Defendant guilty as charged. The ICA affirmed the district court's judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment on appeal and the district court's judgment, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant did not provide an intelligent and knowing waiver of his right to counsel. View "State v. Fujiyoshi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order and judgment of the circuit court granting the State’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction this challenge to the State’s implementation of Haw. Rev. Stat. 248-2.6, holding that the State’s application of section 248-2.6 was consistent with the statute’s plain language and legislative intent and that the statute does not violate the state or federal constitutions. Section 248-2.6 authorizes the State to be reimbursed for its costs in administering a rail surcharge on state general excise and use taxes on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu. Tax Foundation of Hawai’i filed a class action on behalf of all taxpayers in the City and County of Honolulu challenging the State’s application of section 248-2.6. The circuit court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the State’s motion for summary judgment on the merits, holding (1) the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear Tax Foundation’s claims; (2) Tax Foundation had standing; (3) the State did not violate the statute by retaining ten percent of the surcharge gross proceeds; and (4) the State’s application of section 248-2.6 did not violate the state or federal constitutions. View "Tax Foundation of Hawaii v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the district court’s dismissal of Defendant’s excessive speeding citation and remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that double jeopardy is inapplicable to the civil offense of speeding under its current statutory framework and that Defendant was subject to prosecution for both excessive speeding and speeding. Defendant was concurrently cited for speeding and excessive speeding offenses while driving through two separate speed zones. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the excessive speeding charge, concluding that the “lesser included offense” provision of Haw. Rev. Stat. 701-109(1)(a) and the double jeopardy clause barred the State from prosecuting Defendant on the excessive speeding charge. The ICA vacated the district court’s order granting the motion to dismiss, holding that the entry of judgment on Defendant’s noncriminal speeding infraction failed to bar the State from prosecuting him for the crime of excessive speeding. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded, holding that if the district court finds at trial that the excessive speeding charge arises from the same conduct as the speeding infraction, section 701-109(1)(a) will preclude Defendant’s conviction for excessive speeding. View "State v. Kalua" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction and remanded this case to the district court, holding that Defendant’s right of allocution was violated when the district court did not afford him the opportunity to be heard prior to sentencing and that the district court committed plain error in accepting Defendant’s no contest plea without an on-the-record colloquy. Defendant’s no contest plea and sentence both occurred after the trial court found that Defendant had waived his presence at the court proceeding by the filing of a document signed by Defendant and a declaration by defense counsel. The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of harassment stalking and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) Defendant’s challenge to his sentence was not precluded by his plea of no contest; (2) Defendant’s right of allocution guaranteed both by the Hawaii Revised Statutes and the Hawaii Constitution, was violated; and (3) the district court’s acceptance of Defendant’s no contest plea without an on-the-record colloquy was plain error, and because the district court failed to ascertain whether Defendant’s no contest plea was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, the omission affected Defendant’s substantial rights. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiff was subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment when he was held in solitary confinement by State of Hawai’i prison officials for more than nine months following his arrest, in violation of his constitutional due process rights, but defendant Petra Cho was entitled to qualified immunity under federal and state qualified immunity principles for her part in Defendant’s confinement. Plaintiff requested monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state tort law. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of the State and Cho. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s placement in solitary confinement for more than nine months constituted unlawful pretrial punishment; (2) while the circuit court applied an incorrect standard for federal qualified immunity, Cho was not liable for damages for the federal constitutional violation; (3) the circuit court did not err by concluding that Cho had no negligence liability based on state qualified immunity principles; and (4) the State was not liable for damages for the state constitutional violation. View "Gordon v. Maesaka-Hirata" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacate the circuit court’s order denying Petitioner’s petition for postconviction relief, holding that credible testimony during Petitioner’s postconviction hearing clearly indicated that an arrangement existed in which a codefendant expected to benefit from his testimony and that the nondisclosure of this arrangement deprived Petitioner of a fair trial with respect to several of his convictions. Petitioner was convicted of several crimes based in part on the codefendant’s testimony, who chose to testify for the State following an improper ex parte meeting between the prosecutor, judge, and codefendant’s counsel. Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief asserting that an undisclosed, unwritten agreement existed between the prosecutor and the codefendant under which the codefendant was promise a favorable recommendation at sentencing in exchange for his “truthful” testimony. The circuit court denied postconviction relief. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order, as well as those convictions and sentences that may have reasonably been affected by the improper nondisclosure, holding that Petitioner’s right of a fair trial was violated by the nondisclosure. View "Birano v. State" on Justia Law

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In this constitutional speedy trial challenge, the Supreme Court remanded the case for dismissal with or without prejudice as the trial court determines to be appropriate under the court rules and set forth applicable legal principles to assist the trial court in its evaluation of Defendant’s speedy trial challenge if the dismissal is determined to be without prejudice. After Defendant’s initial court appearance, the State was not prepared to proceed with a prosecution. Seven months later, Defendant was indicted for the crime for which he had been arrested. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the State’s delay in bringing the prosecution. The Supreme Court held (1) because no written order or notice was filed effectively discharging Defendant’s bail, Defendant remained held to answer for the crime underlying his arrest, and therefore, the case must be dismissed under court rules; and (2) the Intermediate Court of Appeals erred by considering the legal merits of Defendant’s constitutional speedy trial claim because the trial court failed to make the factual findings necessary for review. View "State v. Visintin" on Justia Law

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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

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At issue was whether an unwritten policy of the Department of Public Safety precluding from promotion to supervisory positions all employees who have been suspended for violation of the Department’s standards of conduct in the prior two years violates aspects of the merit principle on which the Hawaii civil service system is founded. See Haw. Const. art. XVI, 1 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 76-1. Five employees of the Department applied for promotion to open supervisory positions. Each employee passed the relevant examination and was otherwise qualified for the supervisory position prior to being deemed “unsuitable” under the unwritten policy. The Supreme Court held that the Department’s unwritten policy violated the merit principle of openness and remanded this case to the circuit court with instructions to remand to the Merit Appeals Board for further proceedings. View "In re Kuamoo" on Justia Law