Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court held that the Office of the Auditor lacked the authority to pierce the attorney-client privilege and obtain an audit's confidential communications and rejected the Office of the Auditor's jurisdiction and non-justiciability bars to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' (OHA) suit in this declaratory action.The OHA sued the Office of the Auditor after it was audited, seeking a declaratory judgment that neither Haw. Rev. Stat. 23-5 nor the Hawai'i State Constitution required OHA to disclose to the State Auditor privileged attorney-client communications protected from disclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment for OHA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 23-5 did not require OHA to disclose to the State Auditor privileged attorney-client communications protected from disclosure pursuant to Haw. R. Evid. 503 and common-law principles. View "Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Kondo" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court held that the district court and intermediate court of appeals (ICA) erred in ruling that Defendant was not entitled to the requisite Miranda warnings when she was questioned by law enforcement officers, holding that "if a person is unable to leave a place of interrogation due to circumstances incident to medical treatment, determining whether the person is 'in custody' under a totality of circumstances requires an inquiry into whether the person was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and cause the officer to leave."State v. Ketchum, 34 P.3d 1006 (Haw. 2001), articulated that a person is "in custody" for constitutional purposes if the totality of the circumstances reflects that the point of arrest has arrived because probable cause to arrest has developed. State v. Sagapolutele-Silva, 511 P.3d 782 (Haw. 2002), overruled Ketchum's bright-line rule and said that the existence of probable cause was only a factor in determining whether someone was entitled to Miranda warnings under the totality of the circumstances. Here, the Supreme Court expressly overruled Sagapolutele-Silva's abrogation of the Ketchum rule and held that the Ketchum rule remained in effect. The Court then held that, based on the totality of the circumstances, Defendant was in custody well before probable cause developed, and therefore, the lower courts erred by holding that Miranda warnings were not required. View "State v. Hewitt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendants' convictions for attempted murder in the second degree, kidnapping, and other crimes but remanded the case for a new extended term sentencing hearing and resentencing, holding that that extended term sentencing instructions and special interrogatories were prejudicially erroneous and misleading.The jury selection process in the underlying proceedings identified prospective jurors by a number, not name. On appeal, Defendants argued that the circuit court's jury selection method violated their constitutional right to a presumption of innocence and an impartial jury. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the convictions, holding that there was no constitutional violation. The Court, however, held that Defendants' life without the possibility of parole sentences for attempted murder could stand because the circuit court's extended term sentencing jury instructions and special interrogatories were prejudicially erroneous and misleading. View "State v. Lafoga" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting the State's motion for revocation of probation and resentencing Defendant to five years of imprisonment with credit for time served, holding that there was no error.After probation officers conducted a warrantless search of Defendant's home and recovered a firearm and ammunition, the circuit court revoked Defendant's probation. At issue on appeal was whether the circuit court abused its discretion by imposing a probation condition allowing warrantless searches by a probation officer for contraband. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Defendant was prohibited from owning or possessing firearms and ammunition and because he had notice that the term "contraband" would include such items, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by imposing the special condition. View "State v. Talo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming order of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss indictment against him, the court's judgment of conviction and sentence, and the later order of restitution, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment.In his motion to dismiss the indictment against him, Defendant argued that the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct by before the grand jury by improperly eliciting testimony that he had invoked his right to remain silent. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss, and Defendant entered a no-contest plea to assault in the first degree. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' decisions, holding (1) the prosecutor violated Defendant's due process right to a fair and impartial grand jury hearing by eliciting testimony that Defendant invoked his right to remain silent; and (2) the circuit court erred by ordering Defendant to pay $1,461,444 in restitution. View "State v. Borge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ruled that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) had jurisdiction to review the merits of Appellant's postconviction appeal even though the appeal was not properly taken from a final order, holding that the appeal's procedural defects stemmed from ineffective assistance of counsel.Appellant pled no contest to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The ICA dismissed Appellant's appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction because the appeal had not been taken from a final order. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's decision, holding (1) the order appealed from was not final, and the appeal did not give rise to appellate jurisdiction; and (2) this Court presumes prejudice to Appellant from his counsel's failure to take the procedural steps necessary to make the appeal that Appellant desired, and the appropriate remedy is consideration of the appeal on its merits. View "Suitt v. State" on Justia Law

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In this petition for an extraordinary writ the Supreme Court held that when probable cause has been found after a preliminary hearing but the case is dismissed without prejudice due to a defect in the prosecution, Haw. R. Pen. P. 12(g) permits a court to hold a defendant in custody or continue bail for a specified time that is reasonable under the circumstances.After the court dismissed charges against Scott Deangelo, it ordered under Rule 12(g) that Deangelo remain in custody for ninety days while the State sought a grand jury indictment. Deangelo brought this challenge to Rule 12(g), arguing that it violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 803-9(5), which requires an arrested person to be taken before a qualified magistrate for examination within forty-eight hours of arrest. The Supreme Court held that Rule 12(g) is constitutional and that the time specified must be reasonable in light of all of the circumstances. View "Deangelo v. Souza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the decision of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress his answers to the medical rule-out questions given subsequent to a traffic stop, holding that the ICA erred in affirming the district court's suppression of Defendant's answers to the medical rule-out questions.In granting Defendant's motion to suppress, the district court found that Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation without being given the required warnings under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under this Court's decision in State v. Sagapolutele-Silva, 511 P.3d 782 (Haw. 2022), Defendant was not in custody when he was asked the medical rule-out questions because the circumstances of the stop had not risen to those of a formal arrest. View "State v. Tronson " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in this criminal case, holding that because the information omitted the crime of forgery in the second degree's states of mind, it failed to state an offense as to counts 4-7 and violated Defendant's right to due process.Defendant was charged via information with four counts of forgery in the second decree. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss counts 4-7 charging him with forgery in the second degree because the information omitted forgery's states of mind. In response, the State argued that intent to defraud is an element, understandable to the common person, and gave notice to Defendant of forgery's state of mind. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. The ICA reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant's information did not identify forgery's states of mind, intentionally and knowingly; and (2) therefore, counts 4-7 failed to state an offense and violated Defendant's right to due process. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court convicting and sentencing Defendant but reversed with regard to the issue of Defendant's ability to pay a crime victim compensation (CVC) fee under Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-605(6) and 351-62.6, holding that Defendant's inability to pay the CVC fee mandated waiver of the fee.Defendant was convicted of various drug, theft, fraud, and property crimes. In addition to a five-year term of incarceration, the circuit court ordered Defendant to pay a CVC fee and a drug demand reduction (DDR) assessment under Haw. Rev. Stat. 706-650. Defendant appealed, arguing that both the CVC fee and the DDR assessment constituted unconstitutional taxes. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment as to its imposition of the CVC and affirmed in all other respects, holding (1) the circuit court erroneously imposed the CVC fee upon Defendant because he was unable to pay the fee; and (2) the CVC fee and DDR assessment were not unconstitutional taxes. View "State v. Yamashita" on Justia Law