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The Supreme Court of Hawaii affirmed defendant's conviction for sexually assaulting his minor daughter. The court held that the family court did not abuse its discretion in admitting most of the testimony of the State's expert witness because the testimony helped explain the interaction between the minor and defendant, and its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect. The court also held that, although the statistical evidence should not have been admitted, that error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. McDonnell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court and the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) did not err in determining that the State obtained an easement over and across the cement path atop a seawall (the Seawall) by common law implied dedication. For approximately sixty-five years, residents and visitors of O’ahu have walked along the Seawall on or near seaward boundaries of certain property to access the beach, shoreline, and ocean. After the State disclaimed any duty to maintain the Seawall, Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit to require the State to maintain and keep the Seawall in good and safe condition. The circuit court ruled that the State had obtained an easement for public use over and across the seawall by virtue of common law implied dedication. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in light of Hawaii’s long-standing principles of common law, the historical significance and roots of implied dedication in the jurisdiction as evidenced by nearly 150 years of Supreme Court precedent, and the undisputed evidence in this case. View "Gold Coast Neighborhood Ass’n v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Defendant’s conviction for the offense of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. On appeal, Defendant argued that the ICA erred in concluding that the State laid a sufficient foundation to introduce the results of Defendant’s blood alcohol test results. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in admitting Defendant’s blood test results because the State met the burden laid out in State v. Werle, 218 P.3d 762 (Haw. 2009) and State v. Montalbo, 828 P.2d 1274 (Haw. 1992) to establish a sufficient foundation to introduce the blood test results. View "State v. Villena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under the facts of this case, the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not protect the State from an arbitrator’s award of prejudgment interest. This case arose from Grievant’s termination from her job as a public school teacher. The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a grievance on Grievant’s behalf, and an arbitration hearing was held pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between HSTA and the Hawaii State Department of Education (State). The arbitrator sustained the grievance and ordered that Grievant be restored to her former position. The arbitrator also determined that Grievant was entitled to interest on unpaid backpay. Before the circuit court, the State argued that Grievance was not entitled to the awarded interest. The circuit court vacated the portion of the award that gave Grievant prejudgment interest. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) reversed the circuit court’s order vacating the prejudgment interest award, concluding that the doctrine of sovereign immunity was not implicated in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err in concluding that the State waived its sovereign immunity in the arbitration proceedings, even as to the issue of interest. View "In re Arbitration between Hawaii State Teachers Association and State of Hawaii, Department of Education" on Justia Law

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An appeal of an order confirming sale is moot when the appellant does not post a supersedeas bond to obtain a stay of the proceedings prior to the sale of the property to a bona fide purchaser. In this case R. Onaga, Inc. (Onaga) and The Bank of New York Mellon FKA the Bank of New York (BONY) each initiated foreclosure proceedings against property once owned by Robert and Marlyn Marquez. Both entities claimed to have a first priority lien. The circuit court concluded that BONY had a first priority lien and granted summary judgment in favor of BONY. Onaga moved to stay BONY’s foreclosure proceeding, and the circuit court ordered Onaga to post a supersedeas bond in order to stay the proceedings. Onaga did not post a bond. In the meantime, Lyle and Linda Ferrara were the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale, and the circuit court confirmed the sale. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed the ICA’s judgment and affirmed the circuit court’s judgment, holding that because Onaga failed to post a supersedeas bond as required by the circuit court, its appeal of the foreclosure proceeding was moot in light of the Ferraras’ certificate of title. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. R. Onaga, Inc." 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed its decision in Narayan I, in which the court held that Plaintiffs, a group of individual condominium owners, could not be compelled to arbitrate claims arising from the financial breakdown of a condominium project. Specifically, the court held in Narayan I that the arbitration clause was unenforceable because the terms of the documents at issue were ambiguous with respect to Plaintiffs’ intent to arbitrate and that portions of the arbitration clause were unconscionable. The United States Supreme Court vacated and remanded Narayan I for further consideration in light of its recent decision in DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, 577 U.S. __ (2015), which held that state law must place arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts. After recognizing this principle, the Hawaii Supreme Court held that that the arbitration clause at issue in the present case was unconscionable under common law contract principles. View "Narayan v. Ritz-Carlton Development Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner applied for certiorari review of the ICA's order dismissing her appeal from an unfavorable summary judgment order. The Supreme Court of Hawai'i vacated the dismissal order because all claims against all parties have been resolved and entry of a final appealable judgment was warranted. The court remanded with instructions to temporarily remand the case to the circuit court to enter an appealable final judgment, to direct the circuit court to supplement the record on appeal with the final judgment, and to then proceed to consider the appeal accordingly. View "Waikiki v. Ho'omaka Village Ass'n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff, a member of the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Hawai'i (ERS), challenged the denial of "service-connected disability retirement" benefits after she was shot while serving as a public summer school teacher. The Supreme Court of Hawai'i held that plaintiff was eligible for service-connected disability retirement under applicable law. HRS 88-79 provides that an ERS member may be retired by the ERS for service-connected disability retirement if she was permanently incapacitated for duty as the natural and proximate result of an accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty at some definite time and place. In this case, although plaintiff's summer school employment at the school was not "membership service," it was nonetheless "service," and HRS 88-779 provided for "service-connected disability retirement," not "membership service-connected disability retirement." View "Stout v. Board of Trustees of the Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA

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A defendant’s failure to take prescription medication does not constitute self-induced intoxication under Haw. Rev. Stat. 702-230, which precludes the defendant from relying on the defense of lack of penal responsibility due to a physical or mental disease, disorder or defect. Defendant, who was charged with assault in the second degree, presented the defense of lack of criminal responsibility as a result of disease, disorder, or defect. The circuit court found Defendant guilty, concluding that any disease, disorder, or defect Defendant was experiencing at the time of the assault was self-induced and the product of Defendant’s refusal to take his prescribed medication and his use of marijuana. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment on appeal and the circuit court’s judgment of conviction, holding that the circuit court’s holding that Defendant’s failure to take his medication caused his psychotic behavior was inconsistent with the plain language of section 702-230, which requires the introduction of substances into the body. View "State v. Eager" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law