Justia Hawaii Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Academic Labor United v. Bd. of Regents of the University of Haw.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing this action brought by Academic Labor United (ALU) requesting declaratory judgments that graduate assistants were foreclosed from exercising the collective bargaining rights provided to public employees under Haw. Const. art. XIII, 2 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 89, holding that there was no error.ALU, which represented graduate student employees of the University of Hawaii who wish to engage in collective bargaining, brought this suit arguing that a pair of 1972 decisions of the Hawaii Public Employment Relations Board determined that graduate assistants were not "employees" under chapter 89 and were thus foreclosed from exercising collective bargaining rights. The circuit court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because ALU had not invoked Hawaii Administrative Rules 12-42-9 to clarify whether its members are employees under chapter 89 and had not exhausted its administrative remedies, the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over ALU's action. View "Academic Labor United v. Bd. of Regents of the University of Haw." on Justia Law
Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Kondo
The Supreme Court held that the Office of the Auditor lacked the authority to pierce the attorney-client privilege and obtain an audit's confidential communications and rejected the Office of the Auditor's jurisdiction and non-justiciability bars to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' (OHA) suit in this declaratory action.The OHA sued the Office of the Auditor after it was audited, seeking a declaratory judgment that neither Haw. Rev. Stat. 23-5 nor the Hawai'i State Constitution required OHA to disclose to the State Auditor privileged attorney-client communications protected from disclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment for OHA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 23-5 did not require OHA to disclose to the State Auditor privileged attorney-client communications protected from disclosure pursuant to Haw. R. Evid. 503 and common-law principles. View "Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Kondo" on Justia Law
Flores-Case ‘Ohana v. University of Haw.
In this case challenging the constitutionality of administrative rules governing access to Mauna Kea's summit under Haw. Const. art XII, 7, the Supreme Court answered questions reserved by the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit by holding (1) in a challenge to the constitutionality of administrative rules based on a violation of Haw. Const. art. XII, 7, the burden of proof does not shift to the government agency defendant and instead remains with the challenging party; and (2) the framework set forth in Ka Pa'akai O Ka'Aina v. Land Use Comm'n, 7 P.3d 1068 (Haw. 2000), applies to challenges to the constitutionality of an administrative rule based on an alleged violation of article XII, section 7, in addition to contested case hearings. View "Flores-Case 'Ohana v. University of Haw." on Justia Law
In re Petition of Ku’ulei Higashi Kanahele
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Land Use Commission (LUC) denying Petitioners' petition for a declaratory order challenging the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), holding that Haw. Rev. Stat. 205-2(e) does not authorize the Commission to exclude or enforce certain land uses within conservation districts.Petitioners in this case sought to use the LUC's districting authority in a manner that would compel the removal of all astronomy facilities located within the Astronomy Precinct. The LUC denied the petition, and Petitioners appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to directly review Petitioners' appeal; (2) the LUC correctly determined that it lacked jurisdiction to issue the requested declaratory orders; and (3) Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their remaining claims of error. View "In re Petition of Ku'ulei Higashi Kanahele" on Justia Law
In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rejecting the power purchase agreement between Hu Honua and the Hawai'i Electric light Company, Inc., holding that there was no error in the PUC's decision to reject the power purchase agreement between the parties.At issue was the denial of Hua Honua's request for regulatory approval to supply energy to Hawai'i Island using a biomass power plant. In declining to approve the project on remand, the PUC found that the project would produce massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and significantly increase costs for rate-payers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC understood its public interest-minded mission and properly followed this Court's remand instructions to consider the reasonableness of the proposed project's costs in light of its GHG emissions and the impact on Intervenors' right to a clean and healthful environment. View "In re Haw. Electric Light Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Suzuki v. American Healthways, Inc.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissing Appellant's appeal in this workers' compensation case for lack of a final, appealable order, holding that the ICA erred when it dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.These consolidated cases consisted of the decision of the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DCD) determining that Appellant sustained compensable work-related injuries but denying her claim for compensation relating to her alleged neck injury and sleep disorder. Following years of proceedings before the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) and DCD, the LIRAB issued several orders, including an order granting Employer/Insurer's two motions to compel and denying Appellant's motion for partial summary judgment. The ICA dismissed Appellant's appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ICA had jurisdiction to review the LIRAB's order granting the motions to compel and denying partial summary judgment as to the order compelling Appellant to undergo an independent medical examination. View "Suzuki v. American Healthways, Inc." on Justia Law
Barker v. Young
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the order of the circuit court granting the motion for summary judgment filed by the Hawai'i Criminal Justice Data Center (HCJDC) and dismissing Phillip Barker's action seeking to require the HCJDC to expunge his arrest record, holding that the ICA gravely erred.Barker, who was convicted of disorderly conduct as a violation, applied for expungement of his arrest, asserting that because Haw. Rev. Stat. 701-107(7) provides that a violation does not constitute a crime, he was entitled to expungement pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 831-3.2. The HCJDC denied the application, concluding that Barker had been convicted of a "crime" within the meaning of section 831-3.2(a). The circuit court denied Barker's request for an order requiring the HCJDC to expunge his arrest record. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments below, holding that under the plain language of Haw. Rev. Stat. 701-107(7) and §§ 831-3.2(a), a person arrested for or charged with a crime, including a petty misdemeanor, but convicted of a violation is eligible for expungement because a “violation” is not a “crime.” View "Barker v. Young" on Justia Law
Nitta v. Department of Human Services
In this case arising out of the Department of Human Services' attempt to recover payments made to Dr. Frederick Nitta from its Medicaid Primary Care Physician Program the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) to the extent it remanded the case and otherwise affirmed, holding that DHS's claims largely lacked merit.The Program at issue was established by 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(13)(C) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and enabled certain physicians to temporarily receive increased payments for primary care services provided in 2013 and 2014 to Medicaid patients. In this case, DHS demanded repayment of more than $200,000 in enhanced payments received by Nitta through the program after it determined that Nitta was ineligible for participation in the Program because he did not meet specialty requirements as set forth in a federal administrative rule. While Nitta's appeal was pending, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit invalidated the rule and remanded the case. The ICA adopted the Sixth's Circuit's analysis. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, (1) the rule is invalid because it contravenes the statute; and (2) Nitta was entitled to enhanced payments under the statute. View "Nitta v. Department of Human Services" on Justia Law
Kia’i Wai O Wai’Ale’Ale v. Dep’t of Water, County of Kaua’i
The Supreme Court vacated the environmental court's orders granting partial summary judgment and the ensuing order entering final judgment in favor of the Department of Water, County of Kaua'i (KDOW) in this transfer case addressing the required scope of environmental review under the Hawai'i Environmental Police Act (HEPA) and its administrative rules, holding that KDOW must prepare a new environmental assessment (EA) that complies with HEPA and its administrative rules.KDOW proposed to install an eighteen-inch-diamter water transmission in the Lihu'e area (relief line) that would run 9,000 feet in length and connect to existing KDOW water lines on each end. Pursuant to HEPA, KDOW published a final environmental assessment (FEA) for the relief line and made a finding of no significant impact. Plaintiff challenged the FEA in the environmental court, and the court granted summary judgment for KDOW. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that KDOW did not properly analyze the impact of water withdrawals facilitated by the relief line and may have improperly segmented the relief line from planned development projects and a water treatment facility project. View "Kia’i Wai O Wai’Ale’Ale v. Dep't of Water, County of Kaua'i" on Justia Law
Hicks v. 2021 Hawai’i Reapportionment Commission
The Supreme Court held that the 2021 Hawai'i Reapportionment Commission (the Commission) discharged its obligations under Haw. Const. art. I, 6 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 25-2(b) in developing the 2021 Final Legislative Reapportionment Plan.Petitioners, voters in the state, argued that the plan violated article I, section 6 because it did not reflect that "representative districts shall be wholly included within senatorial districts" and violated Haw. Rev. Stat. 25-2(b)(5) by placing nine O'ahu legislative districts into both congressional districts. The Supreme Court held that the Commission satisfied its obligations under article IV, section 6 and section 25-2(b) by considering the constitutional and statutory district within district guidelines in developing the plan and did not abuse its discretion in adopting the plan. View "Hicks v. 2021 Hawai'i Reapportionment Commission" on Justia Law