Governor's Statement Regarding the Timing of Supreme Court's Superferry Decision Refuted

In the Honolulu Advertiser's Oct. 13 article, "3-way Superferry remedy urged," and in other media reports, Governor Linda Lingle is quoted as saying, "The Supreme Court, for whatever their reason was, decided to wait over a year-and-a-half to reach a decision and to do it two days before this service was set to begin." The implication that the Hawai`i Supreme Court deliberately timed its decision to occur "two days before" the Superferry was scheduled to start is wrong and does a disservice to the people of Hawai`i by undermining their trust in the justice system.

The Superferry officials - and not the Supreme Court - shortened the time frame to the two days between the Supreme Court's decision and the commencement of service by advancing the start date. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Aug. 23, five days before the Superferry's original start date of Aug. 28. The day after the court's decision was issued, Superferry officials moved up the ferry's start date from Tuesday, Aug. 28 to Sunday, Aug. 26, and announced that $5 per passenger and $5 per car fares were available for purchase beginning Saturday, Aug. 25.

When the Supreme Court first notified the parties that oral argument will be held on Aug. 15, online Superferry reservations were being accepted for travel beginning Sept. 5. On Aug. 11, however, Superferry officials moved up the inaugural service from Sept. 5 to Aug. 28. Therefore, it was the Superferry officials who shortened the time frame between the date of oral argument and the Supreme Court's decision on Aug. 23 to the date the Superferry commenced travel by moving up the start date twice; first from Sept. 5 to Aug. 28 and, after the Supreme Court ruled, from Aug. 28 to Aug. 26.

Furthermore, the resultant decision in the Superferry case was delayed due to a request from the Superferry's attorneys to postpone oral argument. Their attorneys asked the Supreme Court to push back oral argument from Aug. 15, 13 days before the Superferry's Aug. 28 start date, to Aug. 28 or later, citing scheduled vacations to the mainland as the reason. Although the attorney for the Sierra Club objected to the Superferry's request to delay the hearing, the request was partially granted in that oral argument was postponed to Aug. 23. The Supreme Court issued its decision that same day.

As for why it took the Supreme Court a year-and-a-half to reach its decision, the Judiciary's Public Affairs Officer, Marsha Kitagawa, wrote a letter published in several newspapers explaining that there was ongoing activity throughout the Superferry appeal and, when court deadlines were extended, it was at the request of a party. Moreover, from the time the case was assigned until the decision on Aug. 23, the Supreme Court decided more than 300 other appeals, focusing first on cases involving children in the State's custody and incarcerated persons, as well as 90 original proceedings, 150 applications to review decisions of the intermediate appellate court, and 1,300 motions. In short, while the Superferry appeal was pending, the supreme court decided many cases.


Thomas R. Keller

For more information, contact the public affairs office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.state.hi.us.

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