Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

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Oahu Publications (“OP”) successfully obtained a judgment against the Governor and was awarded attorneys’ fees. The Governor appealed the attorneys' fees award. The Intermediate Appellate Court (ICA) dismissed the appeal because of an error in the circuit court’s award. The circuit court corrected its judgment, and the Governor again appealed. The ICA affirmed the award of attorneys’ fees. OP then filed a request for appellate fees in the ICA, which included fees accrued during both the first and second appeals. The ICA denied the request for fees incurred during the first appeal on the grounds that it was untimely but granted the request with respect to the second appeal. The Supreme Court vacated in part the ICA’s judgment, holding that the ICA erred in not considering OP’s request for fees and costs incurred during the first appeal, as (1) OP was not a prevailing party for purposes of Haw. Rev. Stat. 92F-15(d) until after the second appeal was decided; and (2) even if OP could have filed a request for fees and costs pursuant to section 92F-15(d) upon dismissal of the first appeal, the ICA had the discretion to consider an untimely request for fees and costs. Remanded. View "Oahu Publ'ns, Inc. v. Abercrombie" on Justia Law

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Appellant was permanently incapacitated while lifting boxes during a work shift for the City and County of Honolulu. Appellant applied for service-connected disability retirement benefits with the Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-79, which allows for such benefits if an ERS member was permanently incapacitated for duty as the “natural and proximate result” of an “accident” occurring while in the actual performance of a duty “at some definite time and place.” The Board denied Appellant’s application, concluding (1) Appellant’s injury was not an “accident” because Appellant had failed to show that the injury occurred at “some definite time and place”; and (2) Appellant’s permanent incapacity was not the “natural and proximate result” of the incident. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the circuit court, holding that the “definite time and place” language in section 88-79 does not preclude the recovery of benefits despite Appellant’s inability to pinpoint the precise moment of injury where there was no dispute that Appellant was injured during her work shift. Remanded for a determination of whether Appellant’s permanent incapacity was not “the natural and proximate result” of the alleged incident. View "Panado v. Bd. of Trustees Employees' Ret. Sys." on Justia Law

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United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646, AFL-CIO (“UPW”) filed an action on behalf of the employees it represented, alleging (1) then-Governor Lingle and members of her administration retaliated against UPW members for filing a lawsuit opposing her statewide furlough plan; and (2) the State was unlawfully privatizing positions customarily performed by civil servants under the merit system. The circuit court dismissed the complaint based on a lack of jurisdiction. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to stay the action pursuant to the primary jurisdiction doctrine so the parties could pursue appropriate administrative remedies before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB). The Supreme Court primarily affirmed, holding (1) the ICA did not err in concluding that the primary jurisdiction doctrine was applicable to UPW’s retaliation claims because the claims required the resolution of issues that have been placed within the special competence of the HLRB, and that a stay, rather than a dismissal, was appropriate under the circumstances; and (2) the primary jurisdiction doctrine did not apply to UPW’s privatization claims, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing these claims, and the ICA erred in referring the claims to the HLRB. Remanded. View "United Pub. Workers, AFSCME, Local 636, AFL-CIO v. Abercrombie" on Justia Law

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Kauai Springs, Inc., a water bottling and distribution company, filed an application for three zoning permits related to the continued operation of its water bottling facility on land located in Koloa, Kauai. The Planning Commission of the County of Kauai denied the permits, notified Kauai Springs that continued operation on the property constituted a land use violation, and ordered Kauai Springs to shut down its operations on the property. The circuit court reversed in part and vacated in part the Commissioner’s decision and order and ordered that all three permits be issued. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s final judgment and remanded to the Commission for consideration of whether Kauai Springs could meet the requirements for the permits. The Supreme Court affirmed to the extent the ICA vacated the circuit court’s final judgment, holding that the Commission’s findings of fact were not erroneous, its conclusions of law were correct, and its decision to deny the permits was not arbitrary and capricious, but clarity and completeness in its decision were lacking. Remanded to the Commission to clarify its findings of fact and conclusions of law. View "Kauai Springs, Inc. v. Planning Comm'n" on Justia Law

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John McLaren represented a claimant in a workers’ compensation case before the Disability Compensation Division (“Division”) of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (“Department”) that resulted in a settlement awarding the claimant benefits for disability and disfigurement. McLaren requested attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $7,105. The Director of the Department approved the request but reduced the amount to $3,729. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board dismissed McLaren’s appeal as untimely and denied McLaren’s subsequent motion for reconsideration. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding (1) the ICA erred in concluding that McLaren’s appeal was untimely made and that his requests to the Division for reconsideration were insufficiently supported; (2) the ICA did not err in concluding that McLaren did not have a right to a contested case hearing before the Division; but (3) the Division was required to provide its reasons for reducing McLaren’s request for attorney’s fees and costs. View "McLaren v. Paradise Inn Haw., Inc." on Justia Law

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Homeowners filed a complaint against the County and certain Developers, alleging that the Mayor had unlawfully exempted certain projects from a height restriction law (“Law”). On December 31, 2008, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Homeowners and entered an order for declaratory and injunctive relief. The circuit court subsequently denied Homeowners’ request for attorneys’ fees under the private attorney general doctrine. After the parties appealed, the Maui County Council passed a bill making the Mayor’s previously illegal conduct legal. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) (1) vacated the circuit court’s December 31, 2008 order because the Law issue was frustrated based on mootness, and (2) concluded that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court (1) vacated that portion of the ICA’s judgment that vacated the circuit court’s judgments and order, holding (i) when a case is mooted while on appeal, the appellate could should remand the case to the trial court for a consideration of the vacatur issue, and (ii) the ICA did not properly analyze the vacatur issue; and (2) affirmed that portion of the ICA’s judgment that affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Homeowners’ request for attorneys’ fees. Remanded. View "Goo v. Arakawa" on Justia Law

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After a contested case hearing, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) entered an order imposing a financial assessment for damages to state conservation land against Pila’a 400, LLC. Specifically, the BLNR held Pila’a 400 responsible for remedial, restoration, and monitoring costs for despoilment of the state land, including near-pristine coral reef, resulting from unauthorized land use. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the BLNR was not required to engage in rule-making before imposing the financial assessment for damages to state land against Pila’a 400; (2) the BLNR had jurisdiction to institute the enforcement action; and (3) Pila’a 400 was afforded a full opportunity to be heard at the contested case hearing following reasonable notice. View "Pila'a 400, LLC v. Bd. of Land & Natural Res." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought a claim against the State Procurement Policy Board challenging the validity of Haw. Admin. R. 3-122-66, claiming it was contrary to the “minimum of three” persons requirement in Haw. Rev. Stat. 103D-304(g) and should be struck down. Plaintiff also sought a declaration that every government contract issued under the invalid authority of Rule 3-122-66 was void ab initio. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff had standing to bring the action and that Rule 3-122-66 was invalid, but the court declined invalidate all contracts issued under Rule 3-122-66. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner had standing to bring his claim based on his status as an “interested person” and in order to satisfy the “needs of justice”; (2) Rule 3-122-66 is invalid because manifestly exceeds the scope of authority given by the legislature to the Board; and (3) the circuit court did not err in refusing to rule that every government contract issued under Rule 3-122-66 was void ab initio. View "Asato v. State Procurement Policy Bd." on Justia Law

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The owner of certain property and surveying company filed a shoreline certification application with the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the property. Petitioners filed a notice of appeal of the proposed shoreline certification. In an amended decision, the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) concluded that Petitioners failed to establish that the proposed certified shoreline was not proper. The Supreme Court vacated the BLNR’s amended decision, holding (1) in making a shoreline determination pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 205A-42, the BLNR must consider the historical evidence of the upper reaches of the wash of the waves; and (2) in this case, the BLNR’s amended decision establishing a certified shoreline for the subject property effectively failed to consider the historical evidence of the upper reaches of the wash of the waves and contained errors of law and erroneous findings of fact. Remanded. View "Diamond v. Dobbin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Director of Labor and Industrial Relations seeking compensation for the aggravation of his asthma resulting from his exposure to vog while working as a school teacher. The Director denied Petitioner’s claim, and the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) affirmed. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the LIRAB’s decision. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and the LIRAB’s decision, holding that Petitioner was entitled to compensation pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-3(a), which provides that if an employee suffers an injury proximately caused by employment, the employee shall be paid compensation. Remanded to the Director for a determination of the amount of compensation to be awarded. View "Van Ness v. State, Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law