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Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court

No. SCAP-14-0000889, Thursday, June 18, 2015, 8:45 a.m.

PEER NEWS LLC, dba Civil Beat, Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU and HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT, Respondents/Defendants-Appellees, and STATE OF HAWAII ORGANIZATION OF POLICE OFFICERS, Respondent/Intervenor-Defendant-Appellant.

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

Attorney for Petitioner:

Robert Brian Black

Attorneys for Respondent City & County of Honolulu and HPD:

Paul S. Aoki, First Deputy Corporation Counsel, and Duane W.H. Pang and Nicolette Winter, Deputy Corporation Counsels

Attorneys for Respondent SHOPO:

Vladimir Devens and Keani Alapa

NOTE: Order granting Application for Transfer, filed 02/10/15.

COURT: MER, CJ; PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:

Intervenor-Appellant State of Hawai`i Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) appealed from the Circuit Court of the First Circuit’s June 10, 2014 judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee Peer News dba Civil Beat (Civil Beat). Civil Beat timely filed an application for transfer to this court.

This case involves Civil Beat’s request to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) for records relating to the disciplinary suspensions of twelve police officers who were suspended for various instances of misconduct between 2003 and 2012. HPD denied Civil Beat’s request, and Civil Beat filed this lawsuit against HPD and the City & County of Honolulu in the circuit court, seeking an order requiring HPD to disclose the records. SHOPO intervened and argued that the police officers had a protected privacy interest in the records under Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) section 92F-14(b), which precluded HPD from disclosing the records. The circuit court, relying on SHOPO v. Soc’y of Professional Journalists-University of Hawai`i Chapter, 83 Hawaiʻi 378, 927 P.2d 386 (1996) (SHOPO v. SPJ), found in favor of Civil Beat and ordered HPD to disclose the records.

SHOPO appealed the circuit court’s order, and argues that after this court decided SHOPO v. SPJ, the legislature amended HRS section 92F-14(b) in Act 242 to recognize a “significant privacy interest” in police officers’ disciplinary suspension records. SHOPO argues that because this court in SHOPO v. SPJ applied an older version of HRS section 92F-14, in which the legislature had not recognized this “significant privacy interest,” this court’s conclusion that police officers have no constitutionally protected privacy interest, and that, as a result, the public interest requires disclosure of such records, is not dispositive. SHOPO also argues that when enacting Act 242, the legislature performed the balancing between the police officers’ privacy interests and the public interest in disclosure, and determined as matter of policy that police officers’ privacy interests in their disciplinary suspension records outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Civil Beat argues that this court’s decision in SHOPO v. SPJ is dispositive. Civil Beat argues that HRS section 92F-14 must be consistent with the constitutional right to privacy in article I, section 6 of the Hawaiʻi Constitution, and that because this court in SHOPO v. SPJ determined that police officers have no constitutional right of privacy in their disciplinary suspension records, it already conducted the appropriate balancing under HRS section 92F-14 and found that the records must be disclosed. Civil Beat also argues that even if Act 242 requires this court to revisit SHOPO v. SPJ and re-balance the competing interests, taking into account the amendments in Act 242, disclosure of the records would still be required. Civil Beat argues that because the records it requested in this case pertain only to serious instances of misconduct all resulting in suspension of at least twenty days, the public interest in disclosure still outweighs the police officers’ privacy interests in the records.

HPD filed a notice stating that it was taking no position in the appeal.