Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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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

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Hawaii’s extended term sentencing scheme was invalid based on the holding in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), because the sentencing scheme allowed a judge, rather than a jury, to determine facts that resulted in extended sentences. In the instant case, Appellant pled guilty to various offenses in multiple cases and was sentenced to extended term sentences. The sentences became final in 2003. In 2014, Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his sentence was illegal because a judge, rather than a jury, found a relevant fact used to enhance his sentence in violation of Apprendi. The circuit court denied the petition. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court, holding that Appellant’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Flubacher v. State" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred by engaging in a comprehensive inquiry into the amount the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) actually needed for its administrative and operating expenses. In the first appeal in this case, the Supreme Court held that the political question doctrine did not bar a judicial interpretation of the meaning of “sufficient sums” for the DHHL administrative and operating expense, pursuant to Haw. Const. art. XII, 1. On remand, the circuit court concluded that DHHL’s actual need for its administrative and operating expenses was more than $28 million and that the legislature was constitutionally obligated to make such an appropriation to DHHL for fiscal year 2015-16. The court also enjoined the State and its director of finance from violating the constitution or breaching their fiduciary duties to Hawaiian Homelands trust beneficiaries. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s final judgment and underlying orders, holding that the circuit court exceeded this court’s mandate in Nelson I when it determined the amount DHHL actually needed for its administrative and operating expenses. View "Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Sierra Club’s concern regarding the “public health and visibility impacts of burning coal” rose to the level of property within the meaning of the due process clause and whether the protections of the due process clause apply to the right to a clean and healthful environment. This case involved a power purchase agreement between Maui Electric Co., an electric utility company, and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S), a producer of electricity. Maui Electric filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission seeking approval of the agreement, under which Maui Electric would continue to purchase energy generated at HC&S’s facility located in Pu’unene, Maui. Sierra Club filed a motion to intervene, arguing that the Pu’unene plant relied too heavily on coal to meet its power obligations. The Commission denied the motion to intervene and then granted the application to approve the agreement. Sierra Club appealed. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissed the appeal, concluding that no appellate jurisdiction existed over the appeal. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding that a due process hearing was required to protect the asserted property right to a clean and healthful environment guaranteed by the article XI, section 9 of the Hawai’i Constitution and defined by Haw. Rev. Stat. 269. View "In re Application of Maui Electric Co., Limited" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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The County of Maui’s land use regulations did not constitute a regulatory taking of property owned by Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs brought suit against the County arguing that the County’s land use regulations and restrictions prevented them from building a family house on their beachfront lot. Plaintiffs asserted that the County’s actions constituted a regulatory taking for which they were entitled to just compensation. The jury delivered a verdict in favor of the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was evidence to support the jury’s verdict in favor of the County; and (2) the circuit court’s order granting in part and denying in part the County’s motion for costs was not in error. View "Leone v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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After a joint trial, the jury found Lawrence Bruce guilty of promoting prostitution in the second degree and found Justin McKinley guilty of promoting prostitution in the first degree. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated Bruce’s and McKinley’s convictions and remanded their cases for new trials, concluding that one of the prosecutor’s comments during rebuttal closing argument constituted misconduct and that the misconduct was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court reversed the ICA’s judgment, holding that the prosecutor’s comments, when properly analyzed in context, were not improper because they were relevant to the fundamental issues at trial. View "State v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred when it restricted Defendant during his criminal trial in deciding whether and when in the course of presenting his defense he should take the stand, in violation of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, his constitutional right to the assistance of counsel, and his right to due process of law. Although the trial was anticipated to last up to six days, the State rested its case-in-chief in the early afternoon on the first day of the evidentiary portion of the trial. Over defense counsel’s objection, the circuit court ordered Defendant to take the stand that day or forfeit his right to testify entirely. Consequently, Defendant took the stand and testified before the other witnesses in the defense’s case. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the circuit court erred and that the error was not subject to harmless error review. View "State v. Loher" on Justia Law