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Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court

SCWC-11-0000512, Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 10 a.m.

PATRICK LOPEZ, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellant, vs. STATE OF HAWAI`I, Respondent/Defendant-Appellee.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI  96813

Attorneys for Petitioner:

Eric A. Seitz, Della A. Belatti, Ronald N.W. Kim, and Sarah R. Devine

Attorney for Respondent:

Kimberly Tsumoto Guidry, First Deputy Solicitor General

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna, filed 02/11/13.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Court Judge Bert I. Ayabe, in place of McKenna, J., recused, filed 03/01/13.

NOTE: Certificate of Recusal, by Substitute Justice Bert I. Ayabe, filed 03/12/13.

NOTE: Order assigning Circuit Court Judge Randall K.O. Lee, in place of Ayabe, now recused, filed 3/14/13.

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 03/21/13.

COURT: MER, CJ; PAN, SRA, & RWP, JJ; Circuit Court Judge Lee in place of McKenna, J., recused.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Petitioner/plaintiff-appellant Patrick Lopez timely filed an application for a writ of certiorari to review the December 12, 2012 judgment of the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA), issued pursuant to its November 13, 2012 memorandum opinion. The ICA’s judgment affirmed the Circuit Court of the First Circuit’s (circuit court) June 15, 2011 “Order Denying Plaintiff’s Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution/Mandamus.”

In brief summary, this case involves a question of whether a lien recorded by the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) for unpaid child support has priority over an attorney’s lien established for payment of fees in an unrelated, subsequently filed action.

In 1997, the CSEA recorded a lien on Lopez’s real and personal property. In 2008, Lopez entered into a contingency agreement with a law firm for legal representation in an unrelated civil action against the State. The agreement provided the firm a lien for fees on any judgment from the action. In 2010, Lopez received an arbitration award in the civil action for a sum less than the CSEA lien amount, and the circuit court entered the award as final judgment. Lopez filed a motion seeking payment of the judgment from the State to satisfy the attorney’s lien. The circuit court denied the motion, stating that the CSEA lien had priority over the attorney’s lien. The ICA affirmed the circuit court’s order.

Lopez raises three questions in his application. Specifically, he asks whether the ICA gravely erred in: (1) failing to apply proper and well-established rules of statutory interpretation; (2) concluding that the language in Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS) 576D-10.5 is not ambiguous; and (3) concluding that HRS § 507-81 does not provide a superior or separate right for an attorney’s property interest in a judgment over a prior recorded lien.