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Showing posts from 2012

Prosecution Can't Use Evidence from Trial Resulting in Acquittal

State v. Mundon (HSC December 5, 2012) Background. James Mundon was initially indicted with twenty-eight counts including various degrees of sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, and terroristic threatening. The counts stem from an incident that took place in a single night. At the first trial, Mundon represented himself and had standby counsel. He was found guilty of terroristic threatening in the first degree, attempted assault in the first, assault in the third degree, and attempted sexual assault in the first degree. Mundon appealed and challenged the jury instructions. The HSC agreed, reversed the terroristic threateningcounty, vacated the rest, and remanded the case for retrial. Trial. Just before opening statements, the prosecution announced that it would be introducing evidence of acts for which Mundon had been acquitted. Mundon objected, but the circuit court overruled the objection. The complainant testified that she came to Kauai from Canada. On her second day, she met Mundon i…

Dismissal as a Sanction Against Prosecution is not an Acquittal

State v. Clemente (ICA November 30, 2012) Background. Drew Clemente was prosecuted for one count of excessive speeding and one count of operating a vehicle under the influence. The key witness for the prosecution was the officer who pulled him over: Officer Jeffrey Tallion. At the bench trial, Officer Tallion testified for the prosecution, but did not finish on the first day. The District Court ordered Officer Tallion to come back nine days later at 10:00 a.m. On the second day, the court bailiff confused Officer Tallion with another officer in a different case who had called in sick. The District Court called the parties ahead of schedule and told them that Officer Tallion was ill. The prosecution orally moved to continue the trial. The District Court denied the motion and sua sponte dismissed the case with prejudice. About an hour later, Officer Tallion showed up, as scheduled, and the case was recalled. The bailiff realized her error and explained it to the court. The prosecution ora…

Incarceration in California is Good Cause for not Appearing in Honolulu

State v. Diaz (HSC October 18, 2012) Background. Atmarama Diaz was on bail in Hawai'i for felony charges. The circuit court amended the terms of his bail so he could go to California and meet obligations about a pending case over there. At the Honolulu Airport he was arrested for promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree, a misdemeanor. HRS § 712-1249. He posted $1,000 cash bail that day and caught a later flight to California, where he was put in custody pursuant to the terms of that case. Diaz's arraignment for the airport case was before the district court. He did not show up and the district court issued a bench warrant and forfeited the $1,000 bail. He was also charged with criminal contempt of court. HRS § 710-1077. Bail in that case was set at $150. Diaz's lawyer appeared at a later hearing, waived his physical presence, and pleaded not guilty in both cases. Diaz argued that he could not appear at the initial arraignment because he was in custody in California …

Inventory Searches do not Automatically Render the Discovery of Evidence Inevitable

State v. Rodridgues a.k.a. Rodrigues II (HSC October 12, 2012) Background. Marco Rodrigues was sleeping in his car at the Hanamaulu Beach Park near Lihue, Kauai. Officer Scott Williamson saw that the safety sticker on the car had expired so he went up to the car, woke up Rodrigues, and asked for his license and registration. He had no documents, but identified himself. Officer Williamson ran a warrant check, discovered three outstanding bench warrants, and arrested him. He was handcuffed when Officer Williamson searched him "from top to bottom." Officer Williamson pulled his pockets inside out and found a bag containing crystal methamphetamine. He was taken to the Kauai Police Department, where an inventory search had been conducted. He was then taken to the cellblock at the station. Rodrigues was charged with promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree. HRS § 712-1243. Rodrigues filed a motion to suppress on the grounds that the warrantless search of his pockets violated A…

Court Stripped of Discretion in Sentencing Meth Traffickers

State v. Casugay-Badiang (ICA August 21, 2012) OVERRULED Background. Rubin Ikoa Casugay-Badiang was charged with two counts of trafficking methamphetamine in the second degree (HRS § 712-1240.8). Each count carried a penalty of an indeterminate (or open) term of ten years prison, a mandatory minimum term of one to four years, and a fine u to $10,000. He pleaded guilty to both counts. At sentencing, Casugay-Badiang asked the circuit court to impose the lowest possible mandatory minimum: one year. The prosecution agreed. Casugay-Badiang had no prior convictions or even arrests and had admitted that he was selling meth to feed his own drug habit. The circuit court rejected both requests and sentenced Casugay-Badiang as a young offender to an open five with no mandatory minimum under HRS § 706-667. The circuit court provided a lucid and honest assessment of the issue: Okay. Um, sometimes, Counsel, the court asks you to indulge the court whether you want to or not. Just by way of editorializin…

ICA: Equitable Contribution Action not in Nature of Assumpsit (so no Fees)

Kim v. Kam (ICA August 10, 2012)Background. Robert Kim, Nancy Kam, and others entered into an attorney-client contract with Matthew Pyun to represent them in bringing an action against their older brother and his handling of their deceased mother's property. Under the contract, Pyun was paid $45,000 and 25% contingency of any amount received through settlement, judgment, or award. The case settled. Based on the value of the recovered property, Pyun sent a bill of $917,529.12 to the parties. When they failed to pay, Pyun sued them. The court ultimately entered judgment against the parties and for Pyun. They ended up settling with Pyun for $767,000. They agreed that as long as they complied with the settlement, Pyun would agree not to enforce the judgment. If the parties breached the settlement agreement, however, the judgment would be immediately enforceable. Kam and the others paid Pyun only $736,000.Years later, Kim tried to refinance the property, but discovered that Pyun put a …

Trial Court's Discretion in Limiting Cross Examination must Yield to Confrontation Clause

State v. Levell (HSC August 8, 2012)Background. Donald Levell was charged with a single count of harassment (HRS § 711-1106(1)(a)) for allegedly shoving Malia Avila. Before trial, Levell moved for permission to cross-examine Avila about an incident in which she allegedly stole Levell's credit cards and used them after he had been arrested for harassment. Levell argued that the incident was a motive for Avila to fabricate the harassment accusation and to testify falsely at trial. The prosecution objected on the grounds that the incident was irrelevant. The district court denied the motion and refused to allow Levell cross-examine Avila about the credit card theft on the grounds that it was "not relevant to the elements of harassment[.]" And although it was evidence of a potential motive for Avila to fabricate her story, the evidence was highly prejudicial because the theft case was still being investigated, and thus, the cross-examination may cause Avila to violate her ri…

Knowing About Contraband and Having the Ability to Control or Exercise Dominion over it does not Presume Intent to do that.

State v. Foster (HSC July 31, 2012)Background. One summer's night near Kaupo--a remote part on the East side of Maui--DLNR officers were patrolling for unlawful night hunting when they noticed a bright light roving back and forth. The officers caught up to the light and found a 4Runner. Foster was in the driver's seat and Malano was riding shotgun. Wendy Gonsalves and Malia Saunders were sitting in the backseat. The officers approached the vehicle and saw an ammunition clip between the driver's seat and the passenger's seat. All four were ordered out of the vehicle.As the women got out from the backseat, the front passenger's seat slid forward. One of the officers saw a rifle under the seat. During the stop, the officers confirmed that the vehicle was registered to Foster and that Saunders was wanted on a warrant. Foster was arrested and gave a statement.Foster told the police that he had picked up Malano earlier that night and he had a black ukulele case. The men …

ICA has no Problem with Increase 3 Times Higher than Present Rate

In re: Application of Wai'ola O Moloka'i, Inc. (ICA June 14, 2012)Background. Waiola O Moloka'i, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Moloka'i Properties Limited and provides water services for residents, businesses, churches, and Maui County parks for most of western and central Moloka'i. The water comes from mountain sources on the island and is purchased from the Moloka'i Public Utilities--another subsidiary of MPL and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. In 1993, Waiola got a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to provide water to residential, commercial, and agricultural customers on the island. In 2008, MLP announced that all business operations were coming to an end. The Consumer Advocate requested to the PUC that MPL keep the water on. The PUC granted the request and ordered Waiola to continue providing water to the island until it transferred its certificate or returned it back to the PUC.In 2009, Waiola applied for a rate increase. The p…

No Summary Judgment for Simply Failing to Answer Interrog Before the Discovery Cutoff

Ralston v. Yim (ICA May 31, 2012)Background. Rick Ralston sued Dr. Errol Yim for dental malpractice. Before the discovery cut-off date, Dr. Yim filed a motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. Dr. Yim argued that Ralston could not prove his malpractice claim because he had not disclosed any expert witnesses. Ralston responded by arguing that Dr. Yim had not met its initial burden of showing no genuine issue of fact, particularly the fact that Dr. Yim's orthodontic care comported with accepted standards of care and that Dr. Yim adequately obtained Ralston's informed consent. Ralston also pointed out that the discovery cutoff had not occurred. At the first hearing, the circuit court permitted supplemental briefing on the issue. Ralston attached a report from an expert, Dr. Harry Aronowitz, and Dr. Aronowitz's c.v. The affidavit stated that in his expert opinion, Dr. Yim's orthodontic care fell below the standard of care. Dr. Yim did not supplement its motions, but …

One Constitutional Provision: Three Political Questions, One non-Political

Background. A group of people brought a lawsuit against the State's Director of Finance, the State, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and other related officials. The lawsuit alleged a constitutional violation of the duty to sufficiently fund the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The complaint prayed for injunctive relief by ordering sufficient funds. The State filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the complaint raised a political question and the issue could not be resolved by the courts. The circuit court granted the motion and the ICA affirmed. The HSC granted certiorari.The Political Question Doctrine. Hawai'i adopted the political question doctrine from Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962):Prominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political question is found (1) a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or (2) a lack of judicially discoverable and …