The requirement that appeals from trial courts and state agencies be filed first with the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) instead of the Hawaii Supreme Court will become permanent on June 29.
To speed the appellate process and reduce a backlog in the Supreme Court, Act 202 changing the jurisdictions of the Supreme Court and ICA was passed in 2004 and implemented on July 1, 2006.
Act 202 required that appeals be filed with the ICA first, which meant that six ICA judges would hear cases in panels of three. (Prior to July 1, 2006, all five Supreme Court justices reviewed and ruled on the cases they kept.) The Supreme Court would hear appeals transferred from the ICA or brought by writ of certiorari.
Since the new process was implemented three years ago, appeals are being decided more promptly, the backlog of cases in the appellate courts has decreased, and the age of pending and decided appeals had been reduced. As a result, he Supreme Court has been able to hold oral argument in more of the cases it takes.
Because the requirement changing the appellate process was set to expire on June 30, 2010, the Judiciary introduced a measure to repeal the sunset date. The measure was passed by the Legislature, signed by the Governor and becomes effective June 29, 2010.
Chief Justice Ronald Moon thanked the judges and staff of the ICA for proving that the new system works, citing their diligence, adaptability, collegiality and hard work.
During fiscal years 2007, 2008, and 2009, 1,621 new appeals were filed. During the same time period, the ICA terminated 1,613 appeals, and the Supreme Court terminated all 171 of the appeals it had retained. At the end of FY 2009, 630 appeals were pending at the ICA. At the Supreme Court, 11 appeals taken on transfer or applications for writs of certiorari were pending at the end of FY 2009. The median age of all pending appeals as of June 30, 2009 was 246 days, a decrease of 101 days from the median age of pending appeals at the end of FY 2006. The median age of terminated appeals in FY 2009 was 332 days, a 146 day decrease from the median age of 478 days in FY 2006.
By the end of FY 2009, approximately 20 percent fewer appeals were pending in the appellate courts and the median age of cases disposed in FY 2009 was five months less than in FY 2006.