Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court held that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to reopen a December 2014 order (Order No. 32600) upon allegations raised in 2019 that changed circumstances warranted relief from the order.The order at issue approved a purchase power agreement (PPA) in which Hawaiian Electric Company agreed to purchase wind energy generated by Na Pua Makani on a wind farm to be constructed on the island of O'ahu. Life of the Land (LOL) sought to reopen the order with reference to Hawai'i Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b). The PUC denied LOL's motion for relief, concluding that it was without jurisdiction to consider the motion because LOL had not timely appealed the order under Haw. Rev. Stat. 269-15.5 and, alternatively, that the motion for relief was an untimely motion for rehearing or reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PUC did not abuse its discretion in declining to turn to HRCP Rule 60(b) to reopen Order No. 32600. View "In re Application of Hawaiian Electric Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the circuit court's judgment affirming the decisions of the Maui Planning Commission approving an application for a special management area (SMA) use permit to build affordable housing and denying a petition to intervene in the SMA use permit application proceedings, holding that further proceedings were necessary.The SMA use permit was sought by Stanford Carr Development, LLC's (Carr), which sought to build affordable housing within the County of Maui's SMA. The Protect and Preserve Kahoma Ahupua'a Association (PPKAA) filed a petition to intervene in the proceedings. The Commission denied PPKAA's petition on the grounds that PPKAA failed to demonstrate that its interests were different from those of the general public and then approved the SMA use permit application. The ICA vacated the judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) PPKAA had standing to intervene as a matter of right and was denied procedural due process to protect its constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment; and (2) the Commission was required to make findings on the project's consistency with the general and community plans pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 205A-26(2)(C). View "Protect & Preserve Kahoma Ahupua'a Ass'n v. Maui Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board's (LIRAB) denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her workers compensation claims pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-89, holding that the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake was clearly erroneous.After her employment was terminated Petitioner was diagnosed with a disease known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Petitioner filed multiple claims for workers' compensation benefits. At issue was the LIRAB's denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her claims and the ICA's affirmance of the denial. The LIRAB determined that Petitioner failed to produce substantial evidence to support her allegations of a mistake in fact related the the LIRAB director's determination that Petitioner had not suffered a compensable illness because MCS is not an "injury per se." The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's affirmance of the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake, holding that there was substantial evidence supporting Petitioner's contention that it was a mistake to dispose of her claims on the basis that MCS is not a legitimate diagnosis. View "Porter v. Queen’s Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order affirming the final decision of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) Board and dismissing Appellant's appeal, holding that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions to the ERS Board and to have the Board consider the merits of his exceptions.The ERS denied Appellant's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits after suffering a back injury. ERS subsequently received a document filed by Appellant entitled "Petitioner's Proposed Decision." The ERS Board later issued a final decision concluding that Appellant's filing did not constitute exceptions and confirmed its denial of his application. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ERS Board's proposed decision did not automatically become a final decision because he had timely filed exceptions. The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that Appellant's "Petitioner's Proposed Decision" filing satisfied the standard for exceptions and that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions. View "Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals arising from Kenneth Skahan's claims for workers' compensation benefits against his former employer and its insurance carrier (collectively, Employer), the Supreme Court vacated in part the judgments of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board's (LIRAB) decisions, holding that the ICA erred in part.Skahan injured his back while working for Employer, and Employer accepted workers' compensation liability. After Skahan's employment with Employer ended, he experienced mid and low back pain and was diagnosed with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) and filed multiple claims for additional workers' compensation benefits. LIRAB determined that Skahan's DISH injury was compensable because it was causally related to his work injury but that his low back injury was not compensable. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding (1) the ICA erred in holding that Employer rebutted the Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-85 presumption that Skahan's low back claim was for a covered work injury; (2) LIRAB's finding that Skahan's injury was permanent and stationary and at maximum medical improvement by April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous; and (3) LIRAB's conclusion of law ending Skahan's temporary total disability benefits on April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous. View "Skahan v. Stutts Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ICA's judgment on appeal except that part of the judgment relating to an additional revocation period for having three or more prior alcohol enforcement contacts, holding that the procedures used by the Administrative Driver's License Revocation Office (the ADLRO) denied Defendant due process.The ADLRO sustained the automatic revocation of Defendant's driver's license for ten years, determining that Defendant was subject to a mandatory ten-year revocation period for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant because he had three or more prior alcohol enforcement contacts. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's decision in part, holding that the ADLRO erred in considering two prior alcohol enforcement contacts in determining the length of Defendant's revocation period because Defendant was unable to challenge those convictions at the revocation hearing. View "Wolcott v. Administrative Director of the Courts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's final judgment granting and apportioning monetary damages to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries after ruling that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust (Trust), holding that the Fair Market Rental Value (FMRV) model is an adequate method for approximating actual damages.Plaintiffs were a group of Native Hawaiian Trust beneficiaries who claimed that they incurred damages while on the waitlist to receive homestead land due to breaches of trust duties by the State. In 2009, the circuit court ruled that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Trust. In 2018, the circuit court entered a final judgment adopting a FMRV model by which it could estimate the actual loss each individual beneficiary incurred. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err by adopting the FMRV model; (2) incorrectly ruled that a beneficiary's damages did not begin to accrue until six years after the State received a beneficiary's homestead application; and (3) did not err in finding that the State breached its trust duties by failing to recover lands that were withdrawn from the Trust prior to statehood. View "Kalima v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law because the employer failed to overcome the presumption in favor of compensability.Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for injury-by-disease. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) rejected the claim, concluding that the employer's Independent Medical Examinations (IME) reports provided sufficient substantial evidence to overcome the statutory presumption in favor of compensability. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the LIRAB's decision, holding that the employer's IME reports failed to provide substantial evidence to meet its burden to produce evidence that, if true, would overcome the statutory presumption that the injury was work-related. The Court remanded the case to the LIRAB with the instruction that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law. View "Cadiz v. QSI, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving an application for a rate increase submitted by Hawai'i Gas (HG) and remanded this case to the PUC for further proceedings, holding that the PUC did not fulfill its statutory obligations under Haw. Rev. Stat. 269-6(b).Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) as "persons aggrieved" who participated in the contested case, Appellants had standing to appeal; (2) PUC failed to carry out its mandate under section 269-6(b); (3) the PUC's limitations in sub-issue No. 1h violated Appellants' due process rights by improperly curtailing Appellants' substantive participation; and (4) the PUC did not abuse its discretion in adjudicating HG's rate case rather than proceeding through rule-making. View "In re Application of The Gas Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Land Use Commission of the State of Hawai'i erred in a 2017 by interpreting a condition of an administrative order issued almost thirty years earlier prohibiting a resort (Resort) from irrigating its golf course with "potable" water to mean that brackish water is per se "non-potable" but that the Commission did not err in determining that the Resort did not violate the condition under its plain meaning.In 1991, the Commission issued an order approving the Resort's petition seeking to effect district reclassification of a large tract of rural and agricultural land sort that the Resort could build an eighteen-hole golf course. The Commission approved the Resort's petition subject to the condition stating that the Resort was not allowed to use potable water to irrigate the golf course. In 2017, the Commission determined that the Resort's use of brackish water from two wells for golf course irrigation was allowable under the condition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission erred in interpreting the condition to mean that brackish water is per se non-potable; but (2) the Commission did not clearly err in concluding that the water from the two wells was non-potable under county water quality standards. View "Lana'ians for Sensible Growth v. Land Use Commission" on Justia Law