Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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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In this case raising two questions concerning Hawaii law of workers’ compensation as it relates to permanent partial disability (PPD) awards, the Supreme Court held (1) a PPD award for an unscheduled injury that is not comparable to a scheduled injury must be supported by some factual finding of a determinate percentage of impairment of a physical or mental function of the whole person; and (2) a PPD determination may be based on a claimant’s post-injury inability to perform the usual and customary work activities in the position the claimant occupied prior to the injury. In the instant case, the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) awarded Employee $250 in PPD benefits. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated LIRAB’s ruling and remanded for a determination of whether Employee had suffered a permanent impairment and, if so, the percentage of the impairment and the award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated the Board’s $250 lump sum award and remanded to LIRAB for it to determine the relevant percentage of Employee’s impairment, as well as an award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. View "Ihara v. State" on Justia Law

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Commercial aquarium collection pursuant to permits issued under Haw. Rev. Stat. 188-31 and the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s (DLNR) administrative rules is subject to the environmental review procedures provided in the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA). The circuit court determined that, as a matter of law, aquarium collection is not an applicant “action” that triggers HEPA. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts with respect to commercial aquarium collection permits, holding that aquarium collection pursuant to commercial and recreational permits issued by DLNR is a HEPA “action” and thus subject to HEPA environmental review. The court remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings to resolve the issue of whether recreational aquarium collection under section 188-31 and DLNR’s administrative rules is also subject to HEPA. View "Umberger v. Department of Land & Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Lanric Hyland appealed from a county clerk decision to the local board of registration for the County of Hawaii. The local board determined that Hyland mailed his appeal within ten days of service of the county clerk’s decision based in part on its determination that October 13 was a holiday, thus tolling his appeal deadline for that day. Nevertheless, the board ruled that his appeal was untimely because the board did not receive his appeal until after the deadline, and therefore, it was without jurisdiction to review the appeal. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed, but also determined that Hyland did not mail his letter within the ten-day filing period because the second Monday in October - recognized by the federal government as Columbus Day - is not a Hawaii state holiday. The Supreme Court vacated the decisions below, holding (1) the board had jurisdiction to consider the merits of Hyland’s appeal because the appeal letter was mailed within ten days of service of the county clerk decision; and (2) the second Monday in October is a holiday for purposes of the computation of time as to when an act is to be done under Haw. Rev. Stat. 1-29. Remanded. View "Hyland v. Gonzales" on Justia Law

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The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) granted a permit for the University of Hawaii to construct the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope at an area set aside for astronomical observations located within a conservation district near the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui. Kilakila 'O Haleakala (Kilakila) challenged BLNR’s approval of the permit. Both the circuit court and the Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed BLNR’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the permit approval process was not procedurally flawed by prejudgment or by impermissible ex parte communication; and (2) BLNR validly determined that the telescope met the applicable permit criteria and was consistent with the purposes of the conservation district. View "Kilakila 'O Haleakala v. Bd. of Land & Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a proposed project for constructing a new telescope at an area set aside for astronomical research located within a conservation district near the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui. The University of Hawaii (UH) prepared a Management Plan containing guidelines applying to facilities within the astronomical site area. UH found that the Management Plan would not have a significant environmental impact and, therefore, that an environmental impact statement was not required. Kilakila ‘O Haleakala (Kilakila) brought a court action to challenge UH’s finding. During discovery, Kilakila sought to obtain documents and admissions from UH and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) relating to the environmental assessment. UH and DLNR sought a protective order regarding Kilakila’s discovery request, contending that judicial review was restricted to the administrative record. The circuit court granted the protective order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while judicial review of the agency’s determination was not restricted to the administrative record, the circuit court did not err because the parties were permitted to submit documents beyond those contained within the agency record, and the court did not foreclose further discovery requests; and (2) UH’s conclusion that the Management Plan would not cause significant environmental impacts was not clearly erroneous. View "Kilakila 'O Haleakala v. Univ. of Hawaii" on Justia Law

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In 2010 and 2012, the Commission issued charges against William Boyd, a charter school employee, for alleged violations of Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-14 that occurred in 2006 and 2007. Boyd filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate proceedings against him because he was not an employee of the State subject to the code of ethics contained in Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 84. The Commission denied Boyd’s motion and concluded that Boyd was an “employee” as defined in Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-3. The Commission then concluded that Boyd committed several violations of Chapter 84 and imposed a total administrative fine of $10,000. The circuit court affirmed the Commission’s determination that Boyd as an “employee” under section 84-3 and was thus subject to the code of ethics in Chapter 84. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the determination. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments and the Commission’s decision and order, holding (1) in accordance with Haw. Rev. Stat. 302B-9(a), charter school employees were exempt from Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-14 at the relevant time period in this case; and (2) therefore, the Commission did not have the authority to adjudicate the proceedings against Boyd. View "Boyd v. Haw. State Ethics Comm’n" on Justia Law

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The Green Party of Hawaii and seven registered voters who voted in the 2012 General Elections (collectively, Green Party) filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that certain methodologies and procedures used by the Office of Elections in the 2012 election were invalid under the Hawaii Administrative Procedure Act (HAPA). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Office of Elections, concluding that the challenged procedures were not subject to HAPA rulemaking requirements. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment in part, holding that the procedures used to determine that there will be a sufficient number of ballots ordered for each precinct for a general or primary election and the policy for counting votes cast on ballots for the incorrect precinct are rules under HAPA and, therefore, are subject to HAPA’s rulemaking requirements. View "Green Party of Hawaii v. Nago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a State of Hawaii employee, was injured in an accident on the premises of the University of Hawaii Leward Community College one hour after he ended work for the day. The State denied Plaintiff’s claim for compensation on the basis that his injury was not work related. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) determined that the State had presented sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that Plaintiff’s knee injury was a covered work-related injury. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and the LIRAB’s decision and order, holding that the LIRAB erred in concluding that the State rebutted the presumption that Plaintiff’s knee injury was a compensable work injury. View "Yoshii v. State, Univ. of Hawaii" on Justia Law