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The Supreme Court held that the tax court erred in determining that the timeliness of an appeal of real property tax assessments was determined by county ordinance and not state law. Appellant filed a notice of appeal to the tax court for each of fourteen parcels challenging the City Council of the City and County of Honolulu’s assessment notices. The notices of appeal were filed the next business day following the deadline set by a county real property tax ordinance. The appeal deadline fell on a Sunday and was followed by a State holiday. The tax court dismissed the appeals, concluding that the county ordinance superseded the “weekend rule” established by Hawai’i state law. The Supreme Court vacated the tax court, holding (1) the City did not possess the constitutional authority to invalidate via an ordinance the statutory weekend rule as it applied to the tax court’s jurisdiction; and (2) therefore, Appellant’s notices of appeal were timely filed. View "Kalaeloa Ventures, LLC v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the circuit court’s judgment, guilty conviction, and sentence, holding that Defendant’s extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 1-3. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. Defendant was sentenced to an extended sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-661 and 706-662(5). On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the State and its witnesses to refer to Edith Skinner as the “victim” at trial; (2) the circuit court did not err in excluding certain statements as hearsay; (3) the circuit court did not err by refusing Defendant’s proposed jury instructions for lesser included offenses; (4) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct; and (5) Defendant’s sentence was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law because section 706-661 did not provide for a life sentence without the possibility of parole in 1989, when the offense in this case took place. View "State v. Austin " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this criminal case that pursuant to its recent decision in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018), Petitioner was entitled to relief under Hawai’i Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) Rule 40. Petitioner was found guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault and eight counts of third-degree sexual assault. The court sentenced Petitioner to extended terms of imprisonment under the multiple offender statute, Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-662(4)(a). In his amended Rule 40 petition, Petitioner argued that his extended term sentences were “illegal sentences” under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 446 (2000). The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because the findings of fact in support of imposing extended terms were made by the judge, rather than a jury, Petitioner’s extended term sentences were imposed in an illegal manner. View "Preble v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and reinstated the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment to Plaintiff as to Defendant’s liability under Haw. Rev. Stat. 481B-14. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant-hotel on behalf of himself and other customers who paid a service charge to the hotel in connection with the purchase of food or beverages, claiming that the hotel’s conduct was an unfair or deceptive act or practice (UDAP) under sections 481B-14 and 480-2. The circuit court granted summary judgment as to liability only, ruling that Defendant was liable under section 481B-14. After a jury trial on damages, the jury awarded $269,114.73 to the class. The circuit court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion for JMOL on the theory that there was insufficient evidence that Plaintiffs suffered injury as a result of Defendant’s violation of the statute. The ICA affirmed on remand. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff and the class sustained contract-based damages and damages under the UDAP statute. View "Kawakami v. Kahala Hotel Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court vacated the family court’s order in this Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 587A Child Protective Act (CPA) proceeding arising from the death of Parents’ three-year-old child, FG, who died while in foster care. Parents and their children had been under the supervision of the Department of Human Services (DHS) since 2016. When FG died, Parents shared information related to the foster placement and FG’s death on social media and with a local news organization. The family court issued on order preventing all parties to the CPA proceeding from (1) disclosing the names of the children still in foster custody to the general public, and (2) releasing reports or other information that “have been or will be” submitted to the family court relating to the case or the Parents’ two surviving children. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the family court (1) failed to make the findings required to establish that the prohibition against disclosure of the children’s names survives a First Amendment challenge; and (2) failed adequately to explain the basis for the portion of its order prohibiting disclosure of records that have or will be submitted to the family court, and the record was insufficient to support its issuance. View "In re FG" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue was whether an unwritten policy of the Department of Public Safety precluding from promotion to supervisory positions all employees who have been suspended for violation of the Department’s standards of conduct in the prior two years violates aspects of the merit principle on which the Hawaii civil service system is founded. See Haw. Const. art. XVI, 1 and Haw. Rev. Stat. 76-1. Five employees of the Department applied for promotion to open supervisory positions. Each employee passed the relevant examination and was otherwise qualified for the supervisory position prior to being deemed “unsuitable” under the unwritten policy. The Supreme Court held that the Department’s unwritten policy violated the merit principle of openness and remanded this case to the circuit court with instructions to remand to the Merit Appeals Board for further proceedings. View "In re Kuamoo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Appellant’s extended term sentence was imposed in an illegal manner and, accordingly, vacated the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for correction of illegal sentence with regard to the extended term sentence. A judge, and not a jury, determined in 2004 that Appellant’s extended term sentence was necessary for the protection of the public, which was contrary to the Supreme Court’s holding in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018). Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s motion for correction of illegal sentence as to the extended term sentence. View "Marks v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether the Intermediate Court of Appeals’ (ICA) judgment on appeal, entered pursuant to its memorandum opinion affirming the circuit court’s order granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief, was proper. In this case, a judge, rather than a jury, determined in 2004 that Appellant’s extended term sentence was necessary for the protection of the public, which was contrary to the Supreme Court’s holding in Flubacher v. State, 414 P.3d 161 (Haw. 2018). Therefore, the Court concluded that Appellant’s extended term sentence was imposed in an illegal manner. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated in part the ICA’s judgment on appeal as to the extended term sentence, vacated in part the circuit court’s order as to the extended term sentence, and remanded this case for further proceedings. As to the other issues discussed in the ICA’s memorandum opinion and judgment on appeal were not before the Court, the Court did not disturb the ICA’s conclusions as to those other issues. View "Batalona v. State " on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment for Respondent as to all counts in Petitioner’s counterclaim in this property dispute. Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioner alleging that Petitioner had trespassed upon his property and destroyed his landscaping. Petitioner filed a counterclaim arguing that Respondent’s property had been dedicated for exclusive use as a cemetery and that Petitioner had the right to enter the property to visit a family burial site. Petitioner also requested a declaratory judgment clarifying the nature and extent of the parties’ rights and responsibilities with respect to the property. Petitioner also sought to quiet title. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment as to all claims. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that the ICA (1) did not err in affirming the summary judgment with respect to Petitioner’s statutory dedication claim and in holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 669; but (2) erred in concluding that the circuit court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent on Petitioner’s common law dedication claim. View "Ibbetson v. Kaiawe" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a certificate of title was entered when a deed was accepted by the Office of the Assistant Registrar of the Land Court and stamped with a new certificate of title number. Plaintiff-mortgagor brought this action against Defendant-purchaser arguing that the non-judicial foreclosure sale of certain property was not lawfully conducted. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff’s arguments to invalidate the foreclosure sale were untimely because they were not raised before the issuance of a new certificate of title. Plaintiff argued in response that a new certificate of title had not been issued, and therefore, Plaintiff was not prevented from challenging the non-judicial foreclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the issuance of a new certificate of title number was sufficient to provide Defendant with statutory protection. The Supreme Court vacated the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) assignment of a new certificate of title number is not the statutory equivalent of an entry of a certificate of title, and therefore, the evidence in this case did not establish that a certificate of title had been entered; (2) accordingly, Plaintiff was not barred from bringing this action; and (3) an issue of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Omiya" on Justia Law