Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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Appellants, The Sierra Club and Senator Clayton Hee, challenged the Land Use Commission’s (LUC) reclassification of 1525 acres of Appellee D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes’ land from the agricultural state land use district to the urban state land use district. The circuit court affirmed the LUC’s findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decision and order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the reclassification did not violate article XI, section 3 of the Hawai’i Constitution or Haw. Rev. Stat. 205-41 through -52; and (2) reliable, probative, and substantial evidence supported the LUC’s finding that the reclassification of the land at issue was consistent with the Hawai’i State Plan, would not substantially impair agricultural production, and was necessary for urban growth. View "Sierra Club v. D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant was injured while he was working for his former employer. Appellant made a workers’ compensation claim against his former employer and its insurance carrier (collectively, Defendants). The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) concluded that substantial evidence rebutted the presumption that that Appellant’s injuries were related to his work accident and, further, limited Plaintiff’s TTD benefits based on deficiencies in the certificates of disability submitted by Appellant’s attending physicians. 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 (1) concluding that Defendants adduced substantial evidence that rebutted the presumption that Appellant’s injuries were covered work-related injuries; and (2) relying on the deficiencies in Appellant’s physicians’ reports in limiting Appellant’s TTD benefits. Remanded. View "Panoke v. Reef Dev. of Hawaii, Inc." on Justia Law