Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

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In 1971, Plaintiff began subleasing a half-acre parcel of land that was part of an undivided 1040-acre parcel of property (master parcel). Plaintiff and the master parcel's owner, Princeville Development Corporation, subsequently entered into a license agreement effective until 2003 that included an option to purchase and a right of first refusal. The agreement also contained a provision stating that any holding over after the expiration of the term of the agreement should be on the terms and conditions specified in the agreement. In 2005, the Corporation sold the master parcel to Princeville Prince Golf Course (PPGC). Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Corporation in 2005, praying for specific performance of the option to purchase clause. PPGC was substituted as Defendant. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claim for specific performance, holding that the sale of the master parcel did not constitute a "decision to sell" the premises which would trigger Defendant's right of first refusal. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's right of first refusal continued into the holdover period; and (2) the right of first refusal was triggered by the Corporation's decision to sell the master parcel in 2005. Remanded. View "Kutkowski v. Princeville Prince Golf Course, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner pleaded no contest to one count of assault in the first degree and one count of kidnapping as a class B felony. In its first minimum term order, the Hawaii Paroling Authority (HPA) set Petitioner's minimum term of imprisonment at eighteen months for each count. After Petitioner had been imprisoned for more than six months, the HPA held a second hearing to allow Complainant to testify. At the conclusion of the hearing, the HPA imposed a minimum term of five years imprisonment on each count. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the HPA violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection by reopening his minimum term hearing and by subsequently increasing his minimum term. The circuit court dismissed Petitioner's petition. Petitioner appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the HPA wrongfully withheld evidence from him prior to the second hearing. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA judgment and circuit court order, holding that the ICA erred in concluding that Petitioner waived his due process claim relating to the HPA's nondisclosure of adverse materials in Petitioner's HPA file. Remanded for an evidentiary hearing. View "De La Garza v. State " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this suit against the City and County of Honolulu and the State, challenging the approval of a rail project and arguing that state law required that an archaeological inventory survey be completed prior to any approval or commencement of the project. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and State on all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment on Plaintiff's claims that challenged the rail project under Haw. Rev. Stat. 6E and remanded. Plaintiff subsequently requested that the Supreme Court award $255,158 in attorney's fees and $2,510 in costs against the City and State for work performed in the trial court. The Supreme Court (1) granted Plaintiff's request for appellate attorney's fees and costs against the City in the amount of $41,192 in attorney's fees and $343 in costs; (2) and denied Plaintiff's request for trial level fees and costs without prejudice, as Plaintiff's request for fees and costs attributable to work performed at the trial level was more properly within the trial court's discretion. View "Kaleikini v. Yoshioka" on Justia Law

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Defendant was found guilty of several drug-related offenses. At his sentencing hearing, Defendant was represented by a court-appointed deputy public defender. Privately retained counsel also appeared on behalf of Defendant and sought to substitute for the deputy public defender. Defendant's privately retained counsel requested a continuance to prepare. The circuit court denied Defendant's motion to substitution of counsel and a continuance as untimely. The court then sentenced Defendant to a term of imprisonment. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's and circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court violated Defendant's constitutional right to counsel of his choice when it denied his motion for substitution of counsel and a continuance of the sentencing hearing, as the court did not properly balance Defendant's right to counsel of his choice against countervailing government interests. Remanded. View "State v. Cramer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a negligence action against the City for damages arising from an accident in which William Kobashigawa was truck and killed while crossing a mid-block crosswalk. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the City, finding the City was not negligent. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the jury verdict and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the circuit court plainly erred in giving a cautionary instruction that permitted the jury to consider evidence of Plaintiffs' motive in filing suit and in allowing the City to comment on that motive in its closing argument. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the ICA correctly found that the circuit court's cautionary instruction regarding motive was a prejudicially erroneous statement of the law; but (2) the ICA incorrectly found that Plaintiffs failed to preserve their objections to the admission of irrelevant evidence concerning their motive in filing suit and that such failure required it to resort to plain error review. View "Kobashigawa v. Silva" on Justia Law

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The State contracted with a general contractor (Contractor) to complete the renovation of an elementary school. The project required extensive glazing work, specifically, the fabrication and installation of jalousie windows. Contractor held a C-5 specialty license in cabinet, millwork, and carpentry remodeling and repairs, but it did not hold a specialty glazing license. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' (DCCA) Contractors License Board (Board) determined that Contractor could complete the jalousie window work pursuant to its C-5 license. Specifically, the Board determined that the jalousie window work qualified as "incidental and supplemental" to the remodeling and repair work authorized under Contractor's C-5 license. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding that because the Board did not consider the cost and extent of the jalousie window work when determining if that work qualified as "incidental and supplemental" to the project, the Board's interpretation of the "incidental and supplemental" exception was contrary to law and to the primary purpose of the legislation regarding contractor licensing. Remanded. View "Dist. Council 50 of Int'l Union of Painters & Allied Trades v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a medical doctor, challenged the partial denial of personal injury protection benefits after treating a patient insured by Appellee. While Appellant's request for an administrative hearing was pending in the Insurance Division of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the patient's available benefits under her policy were exhausted on account of payments to Appellant and other medical providers. Because of the exhaustion, the Insurance Division dismissed Appellant's claim. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The circuit court also denied Appellant's request for attorney's fees and costs under Haw. Rev. Stat. 431:10C-211(a), which allows fees and costs to be awarded even when a party does not prevail on its claim for benefits, finding Appellant's pursuit of the benefits to be unreasonable. The ICA affirmed. Appellant appealed the denial of attorney's fees. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the circuit court's final judgment, holding that the circuit court and ICA erred in concluding that Appellant's claim was unreasonable due to exhaustion of benefits where Plaintiff had made his claim prior to that exhaustion. Remanded. View "Jou v. Schmidt" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with one count of Unauthorized Possession of Confidential Personal Information (UPCPI) for identifying himself to a police officer during two traffic stops by using the name and address of his former neighbor. Defendant moved to dismiss the charge as a de minimis violation of the UPCPI statute on the ground that his conduct did not actually cause or threaten the harm sought to be prevented by the statute. The circuit court dismissed the charge. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court's dismissal order on the ground that the circuit court had not been presented with all of the relevant circumstances surrounding the offense as required under State v. Rapozo. The Supreme Court affirmed but for different reasons, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in concluding that Defendant's conduct constituted a de minimis violation of the UPCPI statute because Defendant's conduct actually caused or threatened the harm sought to be prevented by the statute. Remanded. View "State v. Pacquing" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of manslaughter and carrying or use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did no abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the amended complaint; (2) the circuit court did not plainly err in allowing the testimony of two witnesses without formally qualifying them as expert witnesses and substituting the words "opinion testimony" for the word "expert" in the jury instruction; (3) the circuit court did not plainly err in instructing the jury on self-defense, in failing to sua sponte instruct the jury on defense of property, or in failing to provide a cautionary instruction on the use of medical marijuana; and (4) Defendant failed to establish that his trial counsel was ineffective. View "State v. Metcalfe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs granted Eastern Savings Bank, FSB (Eastern) a mortgage on property as security for a loan. Plaintiffs defaulted on the loan, and Eastern filed an action to foreclose the mortgage. The circuit court foreclosed on the mortgage, and a public auction was held to sell the property. Eastern purchased the property and filed a motion for confirmation of sale. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint in the U.S. district court seeking a declaratory judgment that the promissory note and mortgage had been timely cancelled pursuant to the federal Trust-in-Lending Act (TILA). The circuit court took judicial notice of Plaintiffs' pending federal case but declined to stay confirmation of the foreclosure sale in the meantime. Thereafter, the circuit court concluded Plaintiffs' pending TILA case did not bar confirmation of the sale of the property, confirmed the sale of the property to Eastern, and entered a deficiency judgment against Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that res judicata principles prohibit a debtor from asserting TILA rescission rights after a foreclosure judgment has become final, despite the rescission attempt being held within the time limit provided by TILA. View "E. Savings Bank, FSB v. Esteban" on Justia Law